In 2010, prolific country singer and songwriter — and Arizona native — Dierks Bentley released Up on the Ridge, a bluegrass studio album. It wasn’t the first time he tackled the style.
Some of his previous recordings exemplify his knack for the sound. Tracks like “Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do” and “Domestic, Light and Cold” from his 2005 release Modern Day Drifter feature depth-filled, intricate picking and solid twang that keep the bluegrass heart beating.
On a few occasions, Bentley and his bandmates entertained audiences as the opening act for some of his shows. Thing is, audiences hadn’t been informed that the support act, The Bolo Boys Bluegrass Band, was actually Bentley and crew in disguise. It only happened a few times before fans caught onto the trickery, but even without knowing their beloved Bentley was part of the band, the bluegrass band’s songs won crowds over.
Showing a different side of himself and peppering a really busy career with a sprinkling of bluegrass has given Bentley a way to explore and expand on his country music roots while giving fans a deeper look at the sounds that motivate him.
Not that his primary endeavors in straight-ahead, modern country music have done him any wrong. Bentley’s career is a stack of relentless touring and music releases, paralleled by awards, nominations, and honors that reflect just how much fans continue to eat up his work.
He won in the Breakthrough Video of the Year category at the 2004 CMT Awards for “What Was I Thinkin’?” And he nabbed that same honor again in 2014, for the song “Drunk on a Plane.”
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Less bluegrass, the latter song is reflective of the Bentley that most people know. It’s from his certified platinum 2014 album Riser. The track maintains an upbeat tempo while telling the story of a groom-to-be who’s ditched at the altar and takes his honeymoon trip solo, leading him to bonding, via booze, with strangers on the plane. Instead of exploring the benefits of drowning sorrows in cocktails with strangers and turning the bad into a party in the sky, he lets some of the heartbreak come through, and it becomes a welcome component to the song.
But Bentley’s not always so humble. “Somewhere on a Beach,” from 2016’s Black, is slightly spiteful as a man lets his ex-girl know that he is currently somewhere on a beach with someone new who “has got it going on / We drink all day / And party all night.” Adding insult to injury, the new love interest also “has got a body / And she’s naughty / And she got me like you ain’t ever got me.” Bentley’s songs aren’t prone to extremes, and that keeps him a relatable magnet for the masses of country music fans.
Bentley’s bringing his What the Hell world tour to Arizona, and like any of his visits to the area, it’s a homecoming celebration. Bentley was born in Phoenix in 1975. Though he lives in Nashville these days, he still is part of the Arizona music landscape. The singer owns Whiskey Row, a restaurant/bar with locations in Tempe, Scottsdale, and Gilbert.
Dierks Bentley is scheduled to perform on Saturday, August 26, at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Tickets are $31 and up. Visit ticketmaster.com.