From the outside, one could easily judge Dierks Bentley’s music too slick, his status as merely a phenom on country radio. But Up On The Ridge might slap you up-side the head.
Recorded with a collection of hot young pickers and bluegrass icons, this may be the best acoustic album of the year; Chris Thile’s backing band, the Punch Brothers (with Noam Pikelny on banjo and Chris Eldridge on guitar) form the core on several cuts. Other players included Bryan Sutton (guitar), Rob Ickes (resonator) and Ronnie McCoury (mandolin). Del McCoury, Vince Gill, Kris Kristofferson, and Alison Krauss also add their inimitable vocal talents to the project.
Bentley ranges far and wide in terms of song choice. Covers of Kris Kristofferson’s “Bottle to The Bottom,” Julie and Buddy Miller’s “Love Grows Wild,” Shawn Camp’s “Fallin’ For You,” U2’s “Pride (In The Name of Love),” and Bob Dylan’s “Senor,” join five songs co-written by Bentley. Jon Randall Stewart, who served as producer, was Bentley’s co-writer on three. Their “Draw Me a Map,” a pop/country confection, especially benefits from the acoustic arrangement.
No doubt Bentley has a fine lead voice, but what makes this album more than another “so and so and…” album is the level of interaction by the other musicians. Instead of mixing and arranging tunes to put Bentley up front, he’s positioned as a band member… albeit the one who sings all the leads. The result comes across as a labor of love.
This article originally appeared in VG’s Sept. ’10 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.