Dierks Bentley puts out more than all-out bluegrass

Dierks Bentley
Up On the Ridge
Capitol Nashville (B003DU50RW)
Grade: ★★★★

By Michael McCall, AP

Bluegrass has always been an influence on Dierks Bentley’s contemporary country sound, usually in subtle ways, except on the occasions he would recruit the Del McCoury Band to support him for an album cut. On “Up On The Ridge,” though, Bentley makes his love for acoustic-mountain music more pronounced.

“Up On The Ridge” isn’t an all-out bluegrass album; Bentley and his first-time producer, Jon Randall Stewart, use drums, electric bass and other contemporary elements to make several songs as radio-ready as previous Bentley albums.

But the former Arizona resident gathered together various all-star bluegrass lineups, including the New York-based Punch Brothers. The expert playing gives the songs a visceral punch that works well with Bentley’s songwriting and distinctive vocal style.

An accomplished songwriter, Bentley co-writes several of the album’s best songs, including the hit title tune. But he also stretches in his song choices, taking on Bob Dylan’s “Señor (Tales Of Yankee Power),” Kris Kristofferson’s “Bottle To The Bottom” (which features a cameo by Kristofferson) and U2’s “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” all of which he makes work for him.

While Bentley touts the album as a departure, it succeeds so well that let’s hope he climbs back up this ridge again.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: On “Bad Angel,” one of the album cuts that drifts deeply into traditional bluegrass territory, Bentley invites fellow travelers Jamey Johnson and Miranda Lambert to join him in three-part harmony and in trading lead vocals. They all deport themselves quite colorfully — and sound like they’re having a blast doing so.


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