Music » Critics' Picks

Dierks Bentley

Saturday, October 30; Mississippi Nights

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Time was, country singers had country names: Tammy, Hank, Kitty and Waylon. Now we have Tracy, Ty, Shania and Toby. These aren't the names of honky-tonkers. These are the names of figure skaters and Mouseketeers. Welcome to the club one Dierks Bentley: young, hot, unhatted and absurdly named. He hails from highly untwangy Phoenix, never sang in church as a kid, never picked more cotton than a J. Crew sweater. But spin the dial, hit the Hot New Country station, hear his voice and, if you love pure singers like George Strait and Alan Jackson, your heart does a triple axle or three. Bentley has become an unlikely and stunning star, free of buffed-up pretensions and completely at home in the un-PC tropes of drinking, cheating and singing with all the sentimentality and skill of a lonesome crooner. He takes a cue from Vince Gill, slicking up bluegrass with mellow pop sheen, and then he leaves that mentor behind with a scorching cover of Buddy Miller's "My Love Will Follow You." He may look like a beach boy, but even George Strait once wore pookah shells. This Bentley doesn't signify bling -- just tradition and certified soul.

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