Monday, October 05, 2009

Dierks Bentley: Grill for the Thrill headliner competes at a higher level

Courtesy The Green Room PR
Country singer Dierks Bentley will perform Saturday night at Roberts Stadium.

By Jacob Bennett
August 9, 2007
Evansville Courier & Press

Three years after his first gig in Evansville, Dierks Bentley is back as a headliner riding a string of top-10 hits, and he still thinks of himself as an underdog.

Wait ... what?

"We're underdogs all over again because we're headlining our own shows and competing against Rascal Flatts and Kenny (Chesney) and (Toby) Keith and (Brad) Paisley," Bentley said. "We've kind of got the underdog status again, and we're working hard to change it."

Bentley is capping off this year's Grill for the Thrill celebration with a Saturday night show at Roberts Stadium, a co-headlining engagement with Gary Allan, a critical favorite and chart topper.

Bentley was just waking up and grabbing some coffee on his tour bus in Sweet Home, Ore., when he phoned to talk about the show.

His first headlining tour comes at a time when critics say country music leans toward pop rock. Although he's had a pretty much uninterrupted run at the top of the charts since "What Was I Thinkin'" debuted in 2003, Bentley could have placed himself above that criticism by pointing out his collaborations with bluegrass artists such as the Del McCoury Band. But he didn't.

"People who complain about Merle Haggard not being on the radio are really living in a different day and age," he said.

"Everyone has their own take on what country means, and all I can do is concentrate on what we do and try to reflect what I think it means.

"For us, it's trying to take some of that old spirit of the gods like Johnny Cash and do it in a contemporary, modern, younger way. That's all we worry about."

That sound includes loud bass, steel guitars and bluegrass influences.

Bentley said he will be in the studio in September to record for his next album. As he tries to stand out in a crowd of country's biggest stars, he will be guided by advice from members of the Del McCoury Band, who are still picking after more than 40 years.

"One thing I learned from those guys was don't try to compete with anyone or trash anyone," Bentley said.

"Your only competition should be the instrument in your hand."

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