L. David Wheeler
To quote one of his famous country music colleagues, Dierks Bentley is on the road again. And he couldn’t be happier.
âIt’s so good to be there,â Bentley said Friday in a phone interview with The Daily Messenger. “I can count the shows I did this year, which is weird to say. There were five club shows, which were weird and crazy – you wouldn’t know COVID was a thing.
âEveryone is so happy, the group is so happy. Every night is a party, but this year it feels like there is a festive victory lap. It’s new to me, it’s really fun.
Bentley – whose career spans nearly two decades since his 2003 debut album – will perform that victory lap in the Finger Lakes this week, with a concert on Thursday, July 22 at 7 p.m. (doors open at 5:30 p.m. ) at Constellation Brands – Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center (CMAC). He is joined by young artists Riley Green and Breland. It’s one of a series of dates, including festivals, casinos and the CMA Summer Jam, before his 2021 “Beers On Me” tour begins in earnest in mid-August.
The CMAC concert is Bentley’s first major amphitheater show of the year, he said. And the active outdoor enthusiast is looking forward not only to the show, but also to strolling through the Finger Lakes.
âDefinitely have my bikes with me for this show,â he said. âJust a lot of family and time outside.â
Since his debut album and first hit, “What Was I Thinkin ‘” in 2003, Bentley has made a career of stylistically diverse songs – up-tempo rave-ups, steaming romantic numbers, even a full bluegrass album in 2010 – with a few common and universal themes: relationships – some good, some gone bad – and dealing with good times and bad, sometimes in healthy ways, sometimes less so. (One of his hits, after all, is “Drunk on a Plane.”)
His most recent full album, “The Mountain” in 2018, found Bentley in a mature, thoughtful fashion while still keeping pace. The title song finds him tackling a grueling mountain climb – a metaphor for the giant obstacles life can throw at you – consistently, one step at a time:
Other tracks on the record find him expressing a deep appreciation for what he has in life (“Living”, “Woman, Amen”), refusing to live in the past (“Travelin ‘Light”) and even thinking of the end of a life well and vigorously lived (“Comment je sors”).
âI think doing albums, you’re trying to reflect where you are – the gratitude and the wisdom that comes with age and everything,â he said.
That said, songs written or chosen by a younger Bentley – âWhat Was I Thinkin ‘â, âDrunk on a Planeâ, âLot of Leavin’ Left to Doâ – are still part of who he was and is. And he knows that his fans – young and old, whether they are at the location depicted in the song or remember being there – can relate to each other.
âWhen I’m on stage, it’s me. I think the fans understand that too, the singer and the song, the experience, âhe said. “I’ve been that guy, sometimes again a m this guy. I try to write songs that aren’t just hits, but that I can live with throughout my career.
In recent years, Bentley has branched out into a clothing line, Desert Sun (“I love it. Flannels, pearl snaps – the kind of stuff I wear anyway – that makes it easier on the road, I just put a few things in a bag and go â). The hiatus year of 2020 saw him prepare (“not aggressively”, he said) for his next album (the single “Gone” has already been released, his clever video showing a post-break Bentley, surfing the channels, seeing Dierks playing characters who endure the worst no matter what he watches, whether it’s a spy thriller or a cooking show) and moves with his family to the Colorado – his wife Cassidy and children Evie, Jordan and Knox. (That’s Knox with him doing a full day of father-son activities in the “Living” video.)
âI’m from Arizona to begin with – we’re all made for nature, I guess life is better outdoors, that’s my motto,â he said. âBeing outside and playing music for people is great. … It’s just a big move for our family and I – and a place to be inspired all the time.
And now, with the country and the touring industry slowly emerging from the pandemic hiatus – although he knows there will be bumps, like when this year’s Seven Peaks Music Festival in Colorado, Bentley and Luke Bryan had to headline, was canceled – Bentley enjoys a comeback on the road and the pleasure of hearing and sometimes collaborating with his tour mates. He’s excited to tour with Green (“a quintessential country singer,” he said) and Breland, a new artist who plays a fusion of country, soul and hip-hop. (âHe’s like a poet, an amazing performer.â¦ He has a lot of energy.â) For Bentley, it’s exciting as it was for him in his youth, listening to George Strait and Randy Travis with his father and later getting inspired by Garth Brooks, Keith Urban and Kenny Chesney.
âIf I’m the last one on the stage, I watch,â he said. “I am primarily a country music fan.”
For information on tickets for Thursday’s show, visit cmacevents.com.
Coming to CMAC
- July 24: Singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile – who sang as a guest on Bentley’s “Travelin ‘Light” – performs at 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 24 (doors 6:30 p.m.) with Rickie Lee Jones.
The remainder of the CMAC summer season as it now stands includes:
- July 31: Blackberry Smoke, with The Allman Betts Band and The Wild Feathers
- August 5-6: Luke Combs, with Drew Parker and Hailey Whitters
- August 12: Harry Connick Jr.
- August 19: Lynyrd Skynyrd, with Kansas
- August 20: Little Big Town, with Hailey Whitters
- August 22: Thomas Rhett, with Cole Swindell and Gabby Barrett
- August 26: King Crimson, with The Zappa Band
- August 27: Jason Mraz, with Phillip Labes
- August 28: Collective Soul, with Better Than Ezra and Tonic
- August 29: Darius Rucker, with Tyler Booth