40 Best Country Albums of 2014

The greatest statements from the year's outsiders, small town heroes and American middle class

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Dierks Bentley, 'Riser'

7. Dierks Bentley, 'Riser'

Dierks Bentley's seventh album is a mish-mash of emo-twang heartbreak — pondering if all the "Bourbon in Kentucky" could make him forget you, getting "Drunk on a Plane" on his way to a solo honeymoon, wanting her to "Say You Do" even if she's lying. However, you never totally know from the album's beaming-yet-melancholy melodies which play like a country twist on vintage U2 (or maybe a Hüsker Dü record played at half-speed). There's also back-porch parties and "good ol' boys pickin' six strings" and "pretty girls drinkin' tall boys," but his bittersweet tunes and relaxed affect will chase any Rice-style alpha male aftertaste. C.W.

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