Sometimes it's kinda embarrassing to own up and say you're a fan of country music, what with all those silly dudes wearing the big cowboy hats and the shiny suits and carrying on with their show-biz shtick. No wonder Music City is often dismissed as Nash Vegas, given the slick commercial pap that represents its standard these days. Dierks Bentley journeyed there to seek his fortune at the tender age of 19, but he was driven by more-traditional values — specifically the hard-bitten, hard-fought attitude espoused by grizzled, no-nonsense forebears like Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard, his earliest idols. He also came up the hard way, slugging it out in the clubs and cutting his first album on his own before a major label came calling. Since then, he's been on an upward trajectory; after striking gold with his first single, "What Was I Thinkin'," he scored three more number-one hits and a trio of best-selling LPs. Likewise, he's won a spate of industry honors, including those accorded by Billboard, the Country Music Association, and the Academy of Country Music. Fortunately, Bentley's kept his cool, reveling in his image as an all-American boy as opposed to the good-old-boy persona most of his contemporaries profess to. With his curly locks, unabashed love for his dog Jake, and a musical M.O. encompassing unadorned Americana, a bit of bluegrass, and a lean, sinewy sound that eschews glitz and glamour, there's never any doubt this guy's the real deal.
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