Up on the Ridge by Dierks Bentley

Dierks Bentley’s highly anticipated bluegrass- and folk-inspired album delves deeply into the singer’s influences and exceeds expectations. The album is built on a bedrock of bluegrass sensibility, but is colored by Dierks’ various country, rock and folk influences. It doesn’t hurt that Dierks brings in a stable of industry friends including Vince Gill, Chris Stapleton, Alison Krauss and Kris Kristofferson to enhance a diverse song lineup.

On the swampy “Bad Angel,” guests Jamey Johnson and Miranda Lambert offer surprisingly soulful contributions, while Alison adds her trademark gossamer vocals to the pleading “Draw Me a Map.” Still, Dierks’ warm and rugged voice holds its own amid all the star power on this album, sounding right at home on tracks like Bob Dylan’s “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power).” The bleak lyrics of the coalfield lament “Down in the Mine” mark some of Dierks’ most poignant songwriting to date.

An exquisite bluegrass cover of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” features a striking vocal by Del McCoury and an intricate instrumental by the Punch Brothers. The lyrics to title track “Up on the Ridge” aren’t groundbreaking, but the song’s energetic spirit and banjo-supported melody should be a shot in the arm for country music.

At once artistic, interesting and highly listenable, this album is a landmark masterpiece from Dierks. [Release date: June 8, 2010]

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