Before the first Seven Peaks Music Festival began last year, Dierks Bentley didn’t set the highest of expectations for the three-day fest he helped curate with Live Nation.

“If nobody else comes, I’m going to have fun,” Bentley, known for hits such as “Drunk on a Plane” and “What Was I Thinkin’,” told People magazine.

Other people showed up. An estimated 10,000 people attended the inaugural event in the small mountain town of Buena Vista. This weekend, it’s time for round two.

The second annual festival, which Bentley will again headline, runs Friday-Sunday and features some of today’s top country acts. Friday’s performances are dedicated to ‘90s hit makers such as Travis Tritt, Diamond Rio and Deana Carter, who thinks the decade remains “the best era of country music.”

“It was such a beautiful time,” says Carter.“It was an open market for people who sounded different, as opposed to everybody looking the same and sounding the same.”

Carter is known for her 1996 hit “Strawberry Wine,” a song she still plays every time she takes the stage.

“It’s funny,” she said. “I’m always shocked when people think we’re not going to play it.”

The song has had a lasting legacy. It appeared on Carter’s album titled “Did I Shave My Legs For This,” which is one of the best-selling records of all time from a female country artist.

Carter thinks that has to do with the album’s honesty, a trait she says defined ’90s music and is absent in much of today’s popular country music.

“Nothing was really shallow,” she said. “Songs were real and truthful and spoke out about the heart and about relationships and about the heartbeat of our country and real experiences. The craft of songwriting was prioritized and the artist was prioritized.”

Based on the packed crowds at her shows, country fans are still fond of tunes from that decade, too.

“I’m blown away at how many people come out,” she said. “When you go out there, it’s amazing. People know every word to every song.”

Along with Bentley and Carter, the Seven Peaks lineup includes Maren Morris, Luke Bryan and Jon Pardi.

Up-and-coming bands will be playing throughout the weekend on Whiskey Row, a smaller stage that shares a name with Bentley’s chain of bars.

For extra fees, eventgoers have the option to camp out all weekend and book activities such as fly-fishing and kayak tours. The festival grounds offer a Somewhere on the Beach area and college football viewing areas. Beer, wine, cocktail and food vendors will also be available.

Amanda Hancock, The Gazette, amanda.hancock@gazette.com

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