Country Cutie

updated 02/16/2009 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/16/2009 AT 01:00 AM EST

OCT. 4, 2008
7 LBS. 10 OZ. 21 IN.

Dierks Bentley winces as his infant daughter Evie, who is fighting a bug, squeezes her eyes shut and coughs. "When she does that, it's not physical or emotional pain," he says. "It's like being shocked in the heart." The platinum country star, who just released his album Feel That Fire, has been feeling everything more intensely since Evie's Oct. 4 birth. "He's completely present with her," says wife Cassidy, 33. Adds the first-time dad, also 33: "It's like this star burst and there's a huge explosion."

A far earthier rumbling inspired "Thunder from Down Under," a jokey ode he wrote for his new baby. "I smell trouble, south of the border, best be on your way!" he croons as Evie coos. (Her more radio-ready faves? Dad's new "Beautiful World" and Beyoncé's "Single Ladies.") Though Bentley—a "very competitive swaddler," says Cassidy—was torn about leaving his littlest fan in January to join Brad Paisley on tour, he says road life is good practice for diaper duty: "After living on a bus with five guys and using every Porta Potti in the country, a dirty diaper is nothing!"

For more on Dierks and other country music stars, look for PEOPLE Country on newsstands Feb. 6.

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