Dierks Bentley had been on an every-other-year schedule for new studio albums, but he skipped a recent rotation, leaving his fans nearly four years without something to hold on to. That figures to end in 2022.

Talking to Taste of Country ahead of the 2021 CMA Awards in Nashville, Bentley confirmed that he will release a new album next year. Since releasing The Mountain (2018), the singer has dropped "Gone" and "Beers on Me," two singles that are thus far unattached to a full-length project. Don't expect more of the same.

"A whole different sound, probably," Bentley says, describing what will be his 10th studio album. "It's leaning a little more tradition in some ways."

The Mountain is unique in that it was mostly written and recorded in Colorado, specifically at Studio in the Clouds in Telluride. The ACM and CMA-nominated album showcased his bluegrass influences in more progressive ways, thus allowing him two No. 1 hits and a Top 5 on the Billboard Country Airplay chart. After spending much of the pandemic in Colorado, Bentley has since returned to Nashville.

"It's been tough to come down off the Mountain," he says, emphasizing the pun. "I have so much love for that album, love the way we made it, and I still love being in those mountains."

Whatever comes next won't be Part 2, he says, clarifying what to expect and describing something that falls between The Mountain and his more progressive Black album from 2016. Ross Copperman has helmed production for each of his last three studio albums, getting an assist from Jon Randall for the most recent project. That was a shift from Bentley's early career, when Brett Beavers was his favorite producer.

At the CMA Awards on Wednesday night, Bentley will bring Breland and Hardy on stage with him to sing "Beers on Me," their Top 40 collaboration. Bentley is also nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year and Music Video of the Year for "Gone." The 2021 CMA Awards air on ABC at 8PM ET.

Remember: The best way to watch the CMAs is on ABC, with ToC on your phone!

Best Country Albums of 2021 - Critic's Pick

There have been many creative country albums in 2021, but not all have hit the mark. Artists are more than ever toying with distribution methods and packaging as much as they are new sounds, so you get double and triple albums, Part 1 and Part 2, and digital EPs in lieu of a traditional 10 or 11-song release.

The bar for an EP on this list of the best country albums of 2021 is higher than an LP, but one project did crack the Top 10. Too much music proved to dampen other artist's efforts, although Alan Jackson's first album in years was filled with country music we couldn't turn away from. Where Have You Gone has 21 songs, but somehow no filler.

More than ever, this relied on staff opinion and artistic merit to allow for some parity among major label artists and independents. The 10 albums listed below are not ranked, although the year-end list published in the fall will crown a true best album of 2021.