On the 2014 Merle Haggard tribute album Working Man’s Poet, Luke Bryan and Dierks Bentley joined forces on a version of the Willie Nelson duet “Pancho and Lefty,” originally penned by Townes Van Zandt. Last night, the ACM Awards co-hosts expanded their Haggard repertoire with a rollicking rendition of “Ramblin’ Fever” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Backed by the show’s house band Jon Batiste and Stay Human, Bryan and Bentley keep things loose on Haggard’s restless 1977 tune, ad-libbing excitedly between their verses and harmonizing on the choruses. The country stars also give a significant chunk of the performance over to dazzling brass, guitar and keyboard solos from Stay Human, who improvise atop the song’s hydraulic backbeat with gusto.
Earlier in the show, Bryan and Bentley visit Colbert’s interview couch to talk about their ACM hosting gig and the state of country music. It was Bentley’s first time to sit for an interview with the comedian host.
“My mom is freaking out. She’s always wanted me to get couch time,” says Bentley, a triple ACM nominee this year.
“Other than a psychiatrist,” quips Bryan, who will again be vying for the ACM Entertainer of the Year prize.
Colbert points out that he’ll be hosting the Emmy Awards later in the year and asks (not that he needs it) if they have any advice, to which Bentley drily responds “Drinking.” They also touch on dream collaborators, alive or dead (“I’d go with Jesus,” says Colbert) as well as the presence of the Backstreet Boys on the ACM Awards. Watch their exchange below.
The 52nd ACM Awards airs live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas Sunday, April 2nd, at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.