The enthusiasm of the fans lining the pews last night (Feb. 2) at the Ryman Auditorium was matched only by the enthusiasm of performer Dierks Bentley. The album release concert was a night-long love affair between Bentley and the audience, comprised of fans, collaborators, and members of the music industry.
His passion translated equally across new songs from Home, due out Tuesday (Feb. 7), and nearly decade-old hits. Bentley showcased with pride his latest tunes, a quality mix of traditional country (“Heart of A Lonely Girl”), and contemporary hits-in-waiting (“5-1-5-0”). The album has already yielded radio success with the poignant title track, and party-hearty “Am I The Only One.”
Guests who appear on the recordings also joined him on stage. Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild is a splendid duet partner on “When You Gonna Come Around,” and Bentley’s three-year-old daughter, Evie, is an adorable guest on “Thinking of You.”
The evening exemplified Bentley’s widely varying influences, with covers including Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” which Bentley used as a clever transition into his kiss-off hit, “How Am I Doin.’” He laughed, “Sorry, Hank. I had to find a way to get into this song.” It was one of a slew of back-catalog favorites he offered including “Every Mile A Memory,” “Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do,” and “Free and Easy (Down The Road I Go).”
Bentley was thrilled to revisit his previous bluegrass-roots project Up On The Ridge, joined by guest Del McCoury for “Draw Me A Map,” and U2’s “Pride (In The Name of Love).” Gathered around the center stage mic, the singers and band members were a visually striking image, with McCoury’s grey jacket and silver hair standing in sharp contrast to Bentley and company’s black attire.
Talented opener Will Hoge shared the honor of being one the last performers on the Ryman’s historic stage before it is replaced. He hopped from piano to guitar to harmonica throughout his set, touching on as many influences as Bentley. Appropriately, Hoge recounted, “People are always asking me, ‘Will Hoge, are you a country artist, a rock artist or a soul artist?’ The answer is yes.”
Hoge had plenty of reasons to celebrate with his hometown crowd. His song “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” is the current single by Eli Young Band and he is heading out on tour with Bentley.