Album Review: Dierks Bentley – Up On the Ridge
Dierks Bentley, Music Row’s curly-haired Romeo, debuted in 2003 with “What Was I Thinkin’,” a sprightly tale of backwoods wooing that proved he could make state-of-the-art Nashville country while staying in touch with the genre’s roots. Since then, he’s married a neat pop sensibility to more-traditional themes to become one of radio’s most successful singers. Hordes of hot-blooded women swoon with his romantic ballads, while his country boy anthems strike the right chord for male listeners who are chasing those women.
After stalling both creatively and commercially on last year’s Feel That Fire, Bentley gets a little scrappy on his fifth studio album, Up on the Ridge, a minor artistic detour that chucks his clean mainstream grooves for a largely-acoustic background. These songs explore the darker side of life–death, late-night drinking and spoiled love affair—and Jon Randall Stewart chimes in with crisp, vibrant arrangements that uncover new levels of Bentley’s talent.
For Bentley, this is no handsome facade. A voracious student of old-school country and bluegrass, he’s often professed his devotion to the history of the genre. Ridge boasts an all-star roster that furthers Bentley’s reputation as one of country’s great young hopes. The ethereal harmonies of Alison Krauss lend a mysterious air to the album’s title cut, while a pair of modern country’s brightest lights, Jamey Johnson and Miranda Lambert, guest on the gritty “Bad Angel,” which finds him toeing the fine line between sin and salvation.
Though he’s surrounded by a wealth of talent, Bentley helms the proceedings with a keen sense of his abilities. The best track is “Rovin’ Gambler,” an energetic rave-up with a cameo by the Punch Brothers, while the blistering “You’re Dead to Me” tells of a soured lover who’s through with giving second chances. “I gave a heartfelt eulogy,” he says to a sorry ex, “I said goodbye, you’re dead to me.”
Not everything works as well. His cover of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love),” accented by Del McCoury’s plaintive wail, draws unfavorable comparisons to Bono’s soaring original, and Bob Dylan’s “Senor (Tales of Yankee Powers)” feels out of place on a prog-bluegrass album. Much better is a remake of Kris Kristofferson’s “Bottle to the Bottom,” a sharp bit of writing from the Hall of Famer that doubles for a commentary on Bentley’s new venture in Nashville’s risk-averse culture: “You wonder if I’m better off/With freedom now to do the things I choose.”
The album closes with the chilling “Down in the Mine,” a Bentley-Randall co-write that fits nicely in the genre’s canon of coal-mining songs. It’s this fidelity to honest, no-frills country music that makes Ridge a watershed moment in the career of an ever-evolving singer-songwriter.
- Arlene: Sorry. I meant to give the link for "Supper Time." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZ58Kfe41kI
- Arlene: Another song sung by Ethel Waters: Irving Berlin's "Supper Time"
- bob: Powerful songs. I read the book "A Lynching in the Heartland" by James H. Madison about a dozen years ago. …
- Ron: Sky Above, Mud Below by Tom Russell is another.
- Jack Williams: Another Othis Taylor song from White African is "My Soul's in Louisiana."
- Jack Williams: Lynch Blues - Corey Harris Countrycide (The Ballad of Ed and Charlie Brown) - Alvin Youngblood Hart Divine Object of Hatred - …
- TexasVet: Marty Robbins - The Hanging Tree https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xczpRc6_yBA
- Janice Brooks: Nice lineup I think I read today was the Emmett Till incident.
- Juli Thanki: For $2,000, I'd want to ride a unicorn in Central Park with Chely.
- luckyoldsun: Leann- I've biked a lot of laps around Central Park over the years. If I thought it would get me to …