Up On The Ridge (2010)
Up On The Ridge: Dierks Bentleys’ bluegrass joy
Last year a 34-year-old American country singer-songwriter Dierks Bentley released what supposed to be a bridge between his own career stages: after three consecutive chart toppers and a greatest hits complication, 2009’s “Feel That Fire” felt like a moderate success, rather than interesting continuation to its predecessors. And now, in less than a year, Dierks is back with a quite unexpected studio full-length attempt: a bluegrass album. However, this is clearly not a “Dierks Bentley plays bluegrass” or some kind of a “tribute to the roots” record. Instead, it turns out be a very fresh 2010’s take on North-American music traditions and proper way to forget the tediousness of Bentleys’ previous LP.
Packed with a handful of great and talented collaborators (such as Miranda Lambert or Alison Krauss), this album feels like a warm backyard barbecue party, rather than a serious work. And that’s for good. An impetuous banjo-driven opener “Up On The Ridge” (with some beautiful falsetto backings) feels pretty effortless and free of unnecessary complications. Bentleys’ voice is pretty strong and forceful in the title track, as well as in quite energetic piece “Rovin’ Gambler”. In a second part of the record guest contributions really start to shine through, helping Dierks’ limited yet thoughtful vocal performance. Gorgeous harmonizing parts from Jamey Johnson and Krauss on a groovy and easy-going “Bad Angel” feel highly appropriate, while on a surprising adaptation of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” Del McCoury delivers deeply pleasant high notes.
It is not your typical Dierks Bentley album. Country singer definitely created a healthy atmosphere for his guests, but he doesn’t insist on seating down and trying his cookery. Instead, Dierks lets fellow artists dig what they need from the song for more soulful and emotional collaboration, which is fairly smart to do and enjoyable to listen. In a retrospective, this record is the most acclaimed Bentleys’ one. It produced some fascinating and passionate hooks, which are great for signing along on a happy evening country concert.