June 12, 2008
By David Huff
Dierks Bentley - Country Fever 2008 - Jun. 12-15
Stay Up ‘til Dawn Picking and Singing
You have got to hand it to a guy who says to himself, “You know, after recording three albums in four years, I think I’ll release a greatest hits package. And just for the heck of it, I’ll let my fans pick the songs, the front and back cover photos, and why not select the name of the disc. And while I’m at it, I’ll even ask my fans to pay money to be listed as executive producers on the record and donate that money to charity.”
Now this absurd notion would come off completely gimmicky if that certain guy with the idea wasn’t named Dierks Bentley. His three studio albums released in a four-year time frame – the self-titled debut in 2003; Modern Day Drifter in 2005; and Long Trip Alone in 2006 – produced five #1 hits, six Grammy nominations and one C.M.A. Horizon Award. So why not release a collection of previously heard hits. No one knows your fan base better than you do, and they’ve come to expect the unexpected where you are concerned.
Bentley’s compilation disc of audience favorites features ten of Dierks’ most recognizable hits, two brand new songs, and five live songs selected exclusively by his fans. Two weeks after its May 6, 2008 release, the fan titled Greatest Hits / Every Mile A Memory 2003-2008, jumped to No. 2 on the Billboard Country charts. A single also selected by the fans for the disc, “Trying to Stop Your Leaving” (from Long Trip Alone), also found new life and is holding steady in the country singles Top 10 list.
Not a bad call for this relative newcomer to the country music scene. Not bad at all.
Growing up in a nonmusical family, Dierks Bentley (who was given a family name as a first name) grew up in Phoenix, listening to George Strait and Hank Williams with his dad. He moved from listener to player when his parents bought him an electric guitar at 13. Dierks first started out playing the music his classmates listened to, mostly Van Halen, until a friend introduced him to the Hank Williams Jr. song, “Man to Man”. From that point on, Bentley quietly plotted a course to the one destination he just knew was calling his name – Nashville.
Bentley moved to the Music City at age 19 to attend Vanderbilt University. He immediately immersed himself in the local music scene. The brash young singer soon discovered that Nashville wasn’t the place he thought it was going to be. The pulse of the city – country music – was going through another transitional phase. This time the labels were looking for male singers sporting a cowboy hat and starched jeans. His college education aside, the young singer was desperately trying to figure out what his next move should be.
At this low point, Dierks stumbled into the Station Inn, a club that in many ways has become a mecca for bluegrass fans worldwide. He took some of what he learned from bluegrass and applied it to the country music in his bones. All-night jam sessions recharged his batteries and he once again started to pursue gigs. Dierks landed a job at the TNN television network (now Spike) doing research on classic country music. By night, he worked on his demos.
After an independent record Bentley made reached the ears of a Music Row insider, his reward came in the form of a publishing deal with Sony/Tree Publishing. For this Phoenix transplant, whom by this time had become something of a self-taught country music historian, landing at the publishing house where legends like Hank Cochran, Harlan Howard and Bill Anderson got their start was just too good to be true. After years of working on the outside looking in at Music Row, Dierks suddenly found himself surrounded by a team of people that believed in him and what he wanted to do musically. One of these supporters was song-plugger Arthur Buenahora, who teamed Dierks up with another Tree writer, Brett Beavers.
It wasn’t long after this collaboration began, that fruits from their efforts began to pay off. After putting on a successful showcase for two labels, Capitol Records emerged the winner for Dierks services. One of the key points in Capitol’s favor was its willingness to take a hands-off approach to the project. The label even allowed Beavers to work as a first-time producer. This gave the pair the creative freedom they needed to make the type of music they knew Bentley could sell.
Produced with an emphasis on acoustic sounds and dynamics, each song was given room to build and space to breathe. The result was a platinum album that continued to build career momentum for the singer over the next three years.
“I feel like I represent a side of Nashville,” said Bentley, “that a lot people outside of this city don’t know about. All the guys and girls that play down on Lower Broadway in downtown, and have such a depth of knowledge of country music, play those bars night after night doing four-hour sets. All the bluegrass players that get together for “pickin’ parties,” where everyone brings an instrument and their favorite beverage, often stay up ‘til dawn picking and singing. That’s the Nashville I know and the Nashville I hope to bring attention to through my music.”
• Dierks Bentley – vocals, guitar
• Robbie Harrington – bass
• Rod Janzen – guitar
• Tim Sergent – steel guitar
• Steve Misamore – drums