With his latest chart-topper, Dierks Bentley wonders “Am I the Only One” who wants to have fun, gulp a cold beer and kick it 'til morning light.
The country music star hopes to have plenty of folks ready to party with him Friday night when he headlines the Zoo Amphitheatre's seventh annual Family Jam, which will close the venerable venue's 75th annual concert series.
“With the live show, the goal is always to be kind of like the bartender and make sure everyone is having a great time rocking out and have a lot of fun,” Bentley said in a phone interview last week from Lacrosse, Wis., where he was kicking off his “Country & Cold Cans” headlining tour.
Friday's show will mark Bentley's third time to play the Family Jam, which his pals in the late, great red dirt band Cross Canadian Ragweed founded and hosted until breaking up last year. The 2011 event will feature Bentley, his tour mates Jerrod Niemann and Eli Young Band, fellow country band The Lost Trailers and Stillwater red dirt musicians No Justice and Chance Anderson.
In keeping with Family Jam tradition, the lineup also will include an artist from outside the country and red dirt scenes: rocker Joe Walsh of the Eagles and James Gang fame.
“Killer. I gotta get him on our stage. I mean, Joe Walsh is unbelievable,” said Bentley, who quickly began mulling possible collaborations.
Over the past few years, Bentley, 35, has often indulged his love for collaborating with other musicians and experimenting with variations on his country sound. He was the lone country star tapped for a recent Pink Floyd tribute week on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” along with The Shins, MGMT, Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters with Pink Floyd vocalist/bassist Roger Waters. Playing a countrified version of “Wish You Were Here” on the show was “badass,” he said.
“I'm really proud of the guys in our band,” Bentley added. “It's Pink Floyd, one of the greatest progressive rock bands of all time, so we're not gonna go there and screw it up. We had to find a way to really put the steel guitar all over it, put the fiddle all over it ... and make it our own.”
Bentley also defied expectations with his celebrated 2010 album “Up on the Ridge.” For the progressive bluegrass record, he invited Tishomingo resident Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson to croon with him on the sinner's plea “Bad Angel,” did a duet with Kris Kristofferson on the country legend's “Bottle to the Bottom” and covered U2's smash “Pride (In the Name of Love)” with bluegrass stars Del McCoury and The Punch Brothers.
“Things would just come together on an unnatural kind of way. It was just really a meant-to-be kind of thing,” Bentley said.
“Up on the Ridge” earned album of the year nominations from the Grammy, Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association awards.
“It sets the bar in a different area for the next album. I can't just go back and do something like I've done before ... so it's exciting. It's definitely reinvigorating.”
With the party song “Am I the Only One,” Bentley already has scored a No. 1 hit from his forthcoming sixth album, due out in February. He recently released the second single and title track, the hopeful anthem “Home.”
“It's kind of coming home to country music on this record for me,” he said. “I think between ‘Am I the Only One' and ‘Home,' you get a pretty good idea of what the record's gonna have. You know, those fun, up-tempo party songs have always been a part of country music for me ... but then also those songs that dig in there and make you think.”
The Arizona native co-wrote the title track in the days after the Jan. 8 Tucson shooting spree that killed six people and injured 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
“It's hopefully a song that brings people together no matter what their backgrounds are,” he said. “I just feel like it's a song that hopefully inspires people that have differences but also inspires people who are going through hard times.”
He is doing his part to help injured veterans with his “Believe in Heroes” initiative, part of the Wounded Warrior Project. Throughout his tour, including the Oklahoma City concert, he is hosting preshow parties for wounded servicemen and women, their friends and families.
“This is when it's time to put your patriotism to work and instead of just talking about it, try to get involved and do something.”