Dierks Bentley is a second-tier Nashville star, and he works awfully hard at it. On his seventh studio album, you can hear him laboring. He strains his thin singing voice on ballads like the title track, a sappy plea for American unity. He staggers through his country-dude paces, sounding unconvincingly good-ol'-boy on hard-partying anthems like "Am I the Only One" and "Tip It On Back." Bentley's last album, Up on The Ridge, was an excursion into alt-country-style bluegrass; it was awkward, but his heart was in it. On Home, Bentley's Music Row collaborators occasionally give him good lines to sing (the cheeky "Diamonds Make Babies"). But in a country field crowded with smooth pros, Bentley is sweaty and workmanlike.
Listen to "Home":
• Photos: Random Notes