Two really great albums today, in a genre that is having a rare banner year.

Let’s start with Brent Cobb, who has written songs for some of the better country artists out there (Miranda Lambert, The Oak Ridge Boys) as well as some of the more commercial and traditional ones (Kenny Chesney, Kellie Pickler).

He’s not the kind of artist I would normally choose to listen to. But his second major-label album, Providence Canyon, is fantastic.

There’s definitely traditional country on it (“Morning’s Gonna Come,” “Sucker for a Good Time”), but it’s also got some deep soul (“Come Home Soon”), and in some spots it even feels more like Americana (“Lorene”). Musically, the guitar work is terrific and feels like it’s got a bit of a bluegrass in it. In fact, songs like “If I Don’t See Ya” get downright funky. Credit it to the man’s Alabama roots.

Of the two albums I’m reviewing today, Dierks Bentley is the more traditional–but it’s also better, at least lyrically. Where Cobb is a complex guitar player, Bentley is much closer to a classic rock guitarist. His songs have the same structure of bands like Bad Company in the late 1970s–two verses, two choruses, then a blazing solo, then one more verse and chorus into the fade or close. But I loved this album.

Bentley is at his best when he’s singing about being an ordinary average guy. “I still go a little crazy, but I don’t stay there as long,” he sings on the title track, a song about how “It’s only a mountain,” and anyone can climb it, if you just take a million steps. It’s a similar message to “Living,” where he sings about appreciating things like a sunny day or a familiar spouse. This is an album shot full of gratitude and humility, which aren’t things you usually get from country artists. And yes, there’s talk of God–but it’s genuine. Bentley is trying to convert his messages, and he’s divorced of politics–he’s just full of the love and kindness of the spirit. And with that, comes confidence, on a song like “You Can’t Bring Me Down,” he says: “I’ve learned to let go, I’ve learned to take the high road, I’m on another level, and you can’t bring me down.” Simple words, simple sentiments, uncomplicated, but ones we all need to hear–especially in these times.

I can’t recommend this album enough.

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