Brantley Gilbert’s albums typically offer a duality: the bold offerings of a man whose stage microphone boasts brass knuckles and a softer side, the introspections of a man who’s paid too many Sunday mornings for his Saturday nights. The Devil Don’t Sleep continues to present both sides of Gilbert, for an offering that, while perhaps not completely groundbreaking, shines at both extremes. Throughout, the Georgia native retains a strong sense of identity, rooted in rebar-strong beliefs and a self-awareness that separates boys from men.
Perhaps the strongest of the barn burners is “Bullet In A Bonfire,” which features incredible backing vocals from Vicki Hampton, Kim Keyes, and Russell Terrell that scream along with Gilbert’s gritty vocals. The song packs a punch, as does Gilbert, taking matters into his own hands when he learns “the stories behind the bruises.” Written by Gilbert with Rhett Akins and Ben Hayslip, the lyric is tightly executed: “When I’ve been the shoulder, you’ve been the reason for her tears.” Along the lines of Just As I Am songs like “Read Me My Rights,” Gilbert doubles down on his do-what-it-takes aggressive, protective vibe. “I see you lookin’ over your shoulder / And I see you tryin’ to act like you don’t hear my footsteps in the dark.”
While Gilbert may be the best in the business when it comes to the sonic version of hot metal and cold stares, his introspective side is the perfect complement. “Just As I Am,” the vulnerable title track of Gilbert’s last release, for instance, revealed his incredible depth, in that case on a solo write discussing alcoholism.
There are two such moments on The Devil Don’t Sleep, and both are stunning. Gilbert has a very strong sense of identity, and songs like “We’re Gonna Ride Again,” an ode to a friend gone too soon, is perfect lyrical evidence:
How’s that steel horse ride on the streets of gold
Does the promised land have any ol’ back roads
Ain’t a doubt you’ve done a burnout on a cloud
Knowin’ you, you probably laid her down
Have you revved it up while the angels sang
Did God get on ya, did he take your wings
You better have ‘em back ‘fore I get in
‘Cause brother, we’re gonna ride again
“We miss ya, brother,” Gilbert says softly at the end of the song.
“Three Feet of Water” is also a masterpiece from Gilbert. Alone with a piano, Gilbert lets his vocal smoothen and glide above the keys, building a melody that feels cinematic and expansive. Like “Just As I Am,” “Three Feet of Water” addresses the moment of personal reckoning – making a tough choice to make a change, even as doubt continues to pervade the decision. It’s a song of baptism, beautifully pairing faith in God with doubt in self: “In the name of the Son and the Father / Can I really leave it all / In three feet of water.” Gilbert wrote the song with Jeremy Bussey, Jayce Hein, and Barry Poole.
Between heartfelt and headstrong, Gilbert brings his meat and potatoes: rocking, electric tracks about being living it up, being young, getting the girl, avoiding the law. “Rockin’ Chairs,” single “The Weekend,” “It’s About To Get Dirty,” and “The Devil Don’t Sleep” are instantly festival ready, with an energy that will play incredibly well live. Gilbert also deviates from sonic norms in moments, like on “In My Head,” a smoother and more synthetic track about falling for a girl over hours of conversation and coffee cups of wine.
“I don’t make fast albums: I have to live my life, let it sink in and then write the songs,” Gilbert shares in a release. “For me, I don’t rush the music. I want it to be right. But then I also want to give the fans as much music as they deserve. To me, this is a conversation – and these songs are catching them up, telling them about what’s happened since Just As I Am.
“There’s been a whole lot of good,” he continues. “There’s been some time to think. And there’s also been a whole lot of real. Knowing you can get to a good place is one thing, staying here is another. That’s why this record is called The Devil Don’t Sleep: he doesn’t, and you’ve always gotta be aware. You don’t have to live in fear, just know and pay attention.”
The album’s deluxe also features five demos of Gilbert’s and five live performances from his show at Red Rocks. The demos include the romantic piano ballad “You Promised,” which has been a cult favorite of BG Nation’s for years. Preview below, and buy the album on iTunes.