"I swear my truck's got a haunted radio/ cause I hear you in every song." - Wish It Would Break - Brett Beavers-Dierks Bentley.

When Arizona born singer-songwriter Dierks Bentley lured famed Del McCoury band to play on his major label debut he was perceived as lucky.

Especially as he also landed a duet with co-writer Harley Allen on I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby on the prestigious Louvin Brothers tribute disc.

But Bentley, 28 and a nine-year Nashville veteran has scars on his knuckle - not just his heart - to prove his art imitates life.

Dierks punched out his car radio when a song reminded him of a departed lover - it was both painful and expensive.

"I lived that song to a T," Bentley revealed as he promoted Wish It Would Break from his self titled EMI disc, "I have 14 stitches in my knuckle. I have not only an emotional, but a physical attachment to the song."

Bentley, writer of 11 of 13 songs, returns to reality-rooted country now enjoying another rebirth in the sea of schmaltz.

And Dierks, like mentors, harvested hay from heartbreak of his decade playing bars as he pitched his tunes and worked as a cable TV tape operator.

"I went through a relationship that supplied me with a lot of songs," says Bentley. "It was one in particular. I'd asked a girl to marry me. I got more of the two-word response, not the three-word response I was looking for. Thank God. It was two years ago which is when I really started writing the record."


An encounter with the protective father of an Alabama born beauty gave him his first hit What Was I Thinkin'.

"I was dating a girl that was a little bit younger than me," Bentley revealed of encounters shared by Aussie rural boys, "there was a father I had to meet every time I walked in the house. It was a little intimidating."

So what made it such a big hit - perhaps the graphic imagery?

"Becky was a beauty from South Alabama/ her daddy had a heart like a nine pound hammer/ think he even did a little time in the slammer."

Not likely to be soaked up in dance clubs but a big hit beyond the concrete corrals - just like Forget About You with George Jones name check.

"I heard that old Jones song just the other day/ about a man who took a broken heart to his grave/ but I'll be damned if a memory's gonna lay me down."

Bentley embraces the full genre gamut - family pride in a co-write with Allen on My Last Name, heartbreak in Whiskey Tears, Distant Shore and Bartenders Etc.

The latter was based on a gig at Springwater in Nashville.

"I looked one night in the crowd," the Phoenix born singer says. "There was no crowd. There was a bartender, a stool and a waitress."

Bentley countrifies his tales with world-weary homilies - keyboards banished and drums softened in a verdant valley of fiddles, steel, dobro, banjo and acoustic guitar.

The heaviest instrumentation is perhaps in oft-covered Buddy and Julie Miller tune My Love Will Follow You but certainly not bluegrass finale Train Travelling, inspired by his Station Inn days under tutelage of Del McCoury.

"They don't compete with anybody else. They stay above the fray. They taught me much about bluegrass people, which is why I stayed in town. Just play music because you love it."

So are there any glitches in this Bentley?

Well, I Bought The Shoes - penned by Jimmy Melton, Dale Dodson and Ken Mellons - is a steal of the old Red Simpson tune.

But don't blame that on Bentley - he's just the new driver of an old model.

Ironically, his indie debut Don't Leave Me In Love featured Carl Jackson who produced the Louvin Bros tribute.

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