NEW YORK, NY—It was a night of countrified rock slit through the vice of some homegrown bluegrass where Dierks Bentley held court with his fingerpicking mates including the Travelin’ McCourys (brothers Ronnie and Ron, sons of bluegrass maestro Del McCoury) that turned the Highline Ballroom into a hootenanny of tasty licks and shitkicking stomps.
The six-person unit spun its repertoire at the crowd first taking on the hits like “Free And Easy” and delivering those unplugged, as well as newer songs from his latest, Up On The Ridge, that’s a combined effort of originals and takes from the masters of outlaw country including Wille Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.
Bentley worked them all into what he called a “controlled car wreck” of arrangements that was jammy loose, yet tight and steeped in Americana. The band added depth to Bentley’s straight-ahead delivery as the musicians intertwined and bulldozed their acoustified twangfest behind the singer’s easy going baritone.
The players fingerpicked and twisted runs off each other like competitors at a state fair as they steered the mothership through a joyous romp of foot-stomping country tapping at the melodic might of the Grand Ole Opry and the sticky grit of a dive bar.
With his scruffy, good looks and cowboy grins Bentley worked off both, keeping it simple and real but not forgetting to add some power choruses to broken hearts and good times that left the ladies in the front row gaga. His onstage boy-next-door banter and reverence to the players onstage (“It ain’t easy standing onstage with your heroes”) was infectious and added to the good time vibe from friends to the fans.
Covers from the new one including Dylan’s “Senor” and the Allmans’ “Midnight Rider” were faithfully served up. On “How Am I Doin” the band morphed into George Straits’ “All Of My Exes Live In Texas” adding some comic relief to the night as the crowd sang along and shots of Jack Daniels were downed by the faithful at the bar. Gabe Witcher from the Punch Brothers (who also appears on the new album) jumpstarted the closer into a battle of dueling fiddles with Rob McCoury that ended in a showdown of Charlie “Devil Went Down To Georgia” Daniels–esque bowed licks leaving the crowd hooting for more.
Opening act Hayes Carll had the crowd tickled pink with a low brow version of his hit destined for dive bar jukeboxes called “She Left Me For Jesus.” His three-piece minimo outfit brought to mind a countrified Jimmy Buffett, before the beach of course.