Dierks Bentley’s Up on the Ridge Branches Out

Dierks Bentley didn’t have to doUp on the Ridge. It’s the album he really wanted to make, but he could’ve just pushed it to the back burner because it wasn’t as mainstream as his first four studio albums. It’s more “bluegrass-influenced.” But he seems like he’s not afraid to put himself out there and do things that other artists might consider a little risky. And thank God for us, he took that risk. Up on the Ridgecomes out today (June 8), and there’s not enough room in this blog for me to rave the way I want to rave.

But I will say this: I’ve been physically unable to remove this CD from my CD player. Bentley invited all kinds of super-special guest vocalists and players to be a part of this album, but all I really need to hear is Bentley. His gritty voice is the one and only choice for the five tracks he penned and a few others written by some pretty remarkable songwriters. (I’m not as crazy about the Bob Dylan and U2 covers, but even those stand out to me as better than the original versions. Sorry, Bono.) Up on the Ridge is one of those albums that has so many great tunes it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite. But throw Jamey Johnson and Miranda Lambert into one of those, and it pretty quickly rises to the top. It’s “Bad Angel,” a song about the demons you face, like smoking, drinking and gambling, so it makes sense that you’d need three lead singers on this one. It wouldn’t be nearly as convincing if Bentley had been singing alone about three addictions and not knowing what to do at the crossroads of temptation and salvation street. You can watch a little bit of the session with Bentley and Johnson here.

Tied for that first-place spot has to be “Down in the Mine.” I know Bentley never worked in a coalmine, but he still manages to capture the feeling of how you can’t catch your breath for the dust in your lungs. It’s powerful stuff.

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