By John Benson
A tip of the bill or a turn of the cowboy hat tells country music’s Dierks Bentley all he needs to know about new material he’s road testing on the Jagermeister Country Tour, which has booked a May 5 show at Akron’s Civic Theater.
“A lot of times I’ll just record our show from the front of the house, and I can just tell from the direction the cowboy hats are facing if the songs rock,” said Bentley, calling from Nashville. “If they’re turned to the side, they’re talking. If it’s face forward and moving up and down, they’re grooving. We’re putting some of these new songs in the show, and they’re going over great. You can really beat up the crowd and see what’s working, what’s not working, what songs need a bridge, what songs don’t. It’s actually a good way to make a record.”
Making good records is something Bentley knows a lot about. In roughly a decade, he’s sold more than 5 million albums and scored seven No. 1 hits — “What Was I Thinkin,” “Come A Little Closer,” “Settle For A Slowdown,” “Every Mile A Memory,” “Free and Easy [Down The Road I Go],” “Feel That Fire,” “Sideways.”
Looking ahead, so far the new songs going over well for Bentley are the current radio single “Am I the Only One” and the tongue-in-cheek “Diamonds Make Babies.”
The latter track finds the singer warning his fellow dudes about the slippery slope from an engagement ring to a newborn baby.
Due out in late summer or early fall, the new CD is a follow-up to Bentley’s 2010 project “Up On The Ridge,” which found the Arizona native scratching his bluegrass itch. The Grammy Award-nominated album included covers by Bob Dylan and U2, as well as guest appearances by Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Jamey Johnson, Miranda Lambert and Kris Kristofferson.
“What I learned from the bluegrass record was really just getting away from Nashville and doing something out in a different city,” Bentley said. “We did a lot of stuff in Brooklyn, N.Y., and this record I took the band to Asheville, N.C. We holed up there for five days straight. What I learned was when you’re away, no one has a place to go. So you might as well record music until midnight, go out and drink until 2 a.m. and come back into the studio at 11 a.m. or when it feels right and start all over again.”
Speaking of drinking, the notion of Bentley, known to take his jeep on tour to better allow him to tailgate with fans before his shows, appearing on the Jagermeister Country Tour makes sense.
“It was a no-brainer,” Bentley said, laughing. “Over the years, I’ve drank quite a bit of the product. And it’s exactly the kind of tour I wanted to do coming off ‘Up on the Ridge Tour.’ The last time around, the large venues were incredible. Now it’s time to go playing crank the amps up and crank the tunes out and just rock it out. It’s perfect. People ask what kind of show it’s going to be. Well, it’s the Jagermeister Country Tour. It pretty much sums up for itself what it’s going to be.”