Dierks Bentley's fans would follow him anywhere, whether it's free and easy down the road or up on the ridge. And wherever he's playing, he makes the crowd feel right at home. Here are 10 of his prime hits, chosen by the CMT.com staff.
"Come a Little Closer"
Does anybody remember Conway Twitty? He died in 1993, but he had more than three dozen No. 1 singles. For some reason, it seems that younger acts these days seldom drop his name alongside the usual "Jones, Cash and Haggard" response when asked about their country influences. "Come a Little Closer," despite its underlying theme of trying to salvage a long-term relationship, is essentially a song about lust -- which is exactly what Twitty excelled at on tracks such as "I'd Love to Lay You Down." And if you've ever witnessed the crowd response when Bentley performs his hit in concert, it's a lot like the '80s when women would nearly fall out into the aisles when Twitty sang "Don't Take It Away." The mere fact that "Come a Little Closer" spent three weeks atop the Billboard country chart in 2005 is ample proof that modern-day country fans will embrace a stone-cold country song when the right singer records it. -- Calvin Gilbert
"Every Mile a Memory"
The melody of "Every Mile a Memory" evokes a sense of nostalgia in me, taking me back to about age 19. We used to spend weekends around a campfire next to a pond, way off the dirt road on our farm. Some of my fondest memories come from that place. Bentley means for the train in the song to take you back to those kinds of places through memories, seeing it so clearly in your mind while knowing a part of you will always be there: "Every mile, a memory, every song, another scene from some old movie going back in time." Bentley earned his fourth No. 1 hit from this single, which I consider one of his most haunting songs. -- Lacey Spears
"Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)"
By now, there's no telling how many times I've seen Bentley in concert. And that's cool with me. He consistently delivers an entertaining show, and I sort of wish I had one of those refrigerators that looks like a PA system (especially when it's stocked with domestic light and cold beer.) Whether he's in a club or an arena, Bentley always looks like he's having a blast onstage, yet he comes across as just a regular dude. In other words, he makes the touring life look easy, no matter what road he's going down. -- Craig Shelburne
Bentley doesn't make a lot of noise and is very understated. Still, his career shows a growing body of songs with an evolving maturity. As CMT.com has written before, the title song from his sixth studio album, Home, would not be a bad fit for a Bruce Springsteen album. Written by Bentley, Brett Beavers and Dan Wilson, it is a tasteful, soft-spoken yet proud song of patriotism. He sings: "West, on a plane bound west/I see her stretching out below/Land, blessed motherland/The place where I was born." In an odd turn of events, singer-songwriter Jason Isbell alleged in a Twitter post that he thought that Bentley had plagiarized "Home" from Isbell's song "In a Razor Town." Nothing further developed from that and the fuss went away. "Home" strikes me as a full-bore Bentley sentiment and very emblematic of his view of his life and his work. "Home," Bentley's 17th single, reached No. 1 on the Billboard country song chart just last month. -- Chet Flippo
"How Am I Doin'"
Bentley incorporates two of my favorite things in the video for "How Am I Doin'" -- getting the last laugh and Las Vegas. After suffering a tough breakup with his recurring gal pal Becky, Bentley is rescued by a Jeep full of cheerful ladies who whisk him off to Sin City. He gets over the heartache quickly by befriending a group of rowdy gamblers and turning $3 into a small fortune. And in true ex fashion, Becky tries to make amends, but it's far too late. Bentley realizes life is much sweeter without all the drama of their rollercoaster relationship, so with his dignity and the return of the white tank top, he goes on his merry way. -- Stephanie Pendergrass
"I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes"
This sultry serenade could soften even the coldest of hearts. As a listener, it's like hearing his innermost thoughts about his infatuation with a woman. He's had a long day and can't wait to see her, just to rest his head on her shoulder, hear her breathe and see where it may lead. A few Christmases ago, my husband made a playlist of tunes that reminded him of me. However, he said he reluctantly left this one out because he wasn't exactly sure what Bentley meant by wanting to make his woman close her eyes. Personally, I think he means he wants to share a passionate evening of lovemaking with his woman, leaving their other painful relationships in the past. Even though my husband and I might see the message of this song differently, I've always thought the best lyrics were those left to the imagination. -- Whitney Self
"Long Trip Alone"
My mom died when I was at a Dierks Bentley concert. My husband had taken the phone call at home and broke the news right when I walked in. Then came the midnight flurry of activity: packing for a funeral, wondering if my kids' black shoes still fit, leaving notes for my husband about calling the school and mentally composing the eulogy I knew my sisters would make me give. But when I got on the train to Detroit all by myself early the next morning, I put my iPod on and played "Long Trip Alone." Over and over, on my long (seven-hour) trip alone. I cried harder each time I played it. All those lines about "I don't know where I'd be without you here, 'cause I'm not really me without you there" and "Maybe I could rest beneath your smile, maybe I could feel you right beside me 'til I'm home." That story and Bentley's aching voice undid me. But in a therapeutic, I-needed-a-good-cry-anyway way. And for that, I've loved it ever since. -- Alison Bonaguro
"Settle for a Slowdown"
I really do like Bentley's fun-loving side, and it always seems sincere. But when he throws that sincerity behind a tune like "Settle for a Slowdown," it knocks me over. Co-written with Brett Beavers and Tony Martin, you can hear Bentley resign himself to loneliness in the first few bars. Helped out by a guitar lick that doesn't seem to know whether to stay or go, Bentley's not so much wallowing in self pity as he is realizing that there's nothing left to wait for. By the time he opens up for the memorable chorus -- "If it hurts at all-l-l-l/You ain't showed it ye-e-e-e-t" -- he's got me shaking my fist at the sky right alongside him. -- Chris Parton
Although the pickup line -- "Hey girl, what's your name?" -- from the opening of this song might not work in a real bar, when backed by the catchy chorus of "Sideways," it had me hooked. This party anthem is the perfect end to a long work week. It's all about cutting loose and getting a little bit sideways when the weekend finally rolls around. I just wonder if he is still chasing that same girl in the little white tank top from his first single, "What Was I Thinkin'." -- Kay Savage
"What Was I Thinkin'"
I once saw a buddy with a tricked-out Jeep Wrangler drive effortlessly through a massive mud pit and decided that if he could do it, so could I. About halfway through, I realized that my Cherokee just wasn't up to snuff. The mud came up to the doors, and I had to climb through my window to get out. It took us all night to pull that Jeep out of the mud. In the process, we blew a tire, destroyed an axle shaft and bent some vital suspension components. It may not have been a date with a "beauty from South Alabama," like Bentley sings about, but it was definitely a "what was I thinkin'" moment. More importantly, just like Bentley going to No. 1 with this debut single, it made for one awesome story. -- Bryan Rogala