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Dierks Bentley shows his talent, but not his best side

House of Blues, West Hollywood, Cal. Jan. 30, 2004

By Dan MacIntosh

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - Dierks Bentley is country music's shaggy-haired new heartthrob, with a distinct talent for writing memorable songs. But since this crowd's pump was primed for his radio hit, "What Was I Thinkin'," many of his other equally worthy compositions - like "Whiskey Tears" and "I Bought the Shoes" - largely fell by the wayside of un-attentive ears.

His self-titled album is evidence that he's one of country's brightest new stars, but this occasion was clearly not an event that showcased his best side.

Sure, upbeat numbers like "Bartenders, Etc..." and "How Am I Doin'," made brief impressions upon this particularly restless crowd, but it was his covers of Waylon Jennings' ("Lonesome, On'ry and Mean"), and a Hank Williams Sr. medley that received the loudest applause.

Bentley's cover of Buddy and Julie Miller's "My Love Will Follow You" deserved a whole lot more love than it received, and "Wish It Would Break" was just one example of his repertoire's many smartly written country songs.

Bentley was backed by a band that included guitar, bass, drums and especially prominent pedal steel guitar - but no fiddle. Nevertheless, Bentley's honky tonk experience was readily apparent, and he certainly knows his way around a good country song.

Maybe it was a bad sound mix, but his voice somehow lacked some of the resonance found on his recent Capitol recording. Of course, he might just have been singing in a higher register, due to the excitement of his first Sunset Strip club appearance. Whatever the case, his singing didn't exactly wow the listener.

It would have been entertaining to hear more of the stories behind this performer's highly personalized songs, but this largely female crowd was just not ready to accept Bentley on his own terms tonight. Man, what were they thinkin'?

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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