If it was not for Jerrod Niemann’s swift rise to fame, and his very infectious “Lover, Lover,” I might never have heard of Sonia Dada. Neimann remade the group’s 1992 hit, “You Don’t Treat Me No Good,” into “Lover, Lover.” And if it was not for Kenny Chesney’s “Down the Road,” I might not have taken it upon myself to fall in love with Mac McAnally’s music, as he sings the thoughts of a hesitant father on that tune. And really, I might not have paid enough attention to Kelly Clarkson until she andReba McEntire came together for that unforgettable collaboration on Clarkson’s “Because of You.”
When two like-minded artists get together on a song (like, say, Kellie Pickler andTaylor Swift on “The Best Days of Your Life,” or Trace Adkins and Blake Shelton on”Hillbilly Bone”), it makes perfect sense. But when they branch out a little (Taylor Swift and John Mayer on “Half of My Heart,” for example), it always takes me by surprise. And I usually love the results. It’s often the same with remakes of songs I’d never heard of. When Miranda Lambert put Gillian Welch’s “Dry Town” on her Crazy Ex-Girlfriend album, I immediately looked into more of the Americana singer-songwriter’s music.
There are days, though, when I like the cover song and the cover song only, like when Dierks Bentley put the 26-year-old “Pride (In the Name of Love)” on his new album, Up on the Ridge. I already knew the U2 song. Who doesn’t? But I never really paid much attention to it. Never even liked it. Now that Bentley’s singing it, with Del McCoury on vocals, I dig what they’ve done with it.
Some days I am exhausted just looking at the tall, tall stack of CDs on my desk. There is just so much music. But then on other days, like today when I have time to sit and think, I’m so glad that I can stop putting music into neat little boxes. It’s better to have an open mind and let the music come to you.
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Tagged Because of You, Blake Shelton, Del McCoury, Dierks Bentley, Down the Road, Dry Town, Gillian Welch, Half of My Heart, Hillbilly Bone, Jerrod Niemann, John Mayer, Kellie Pickler, Kelly Clarkson, Kenny Chesney, Lover Lover, Mac McAnally, Miranda Lambert, Pride (In the Name of Love), Reba McEntire, Sonia Dada, Taylor Swift, The Best Days of Your Life, Trace Adkins, U2, You Don't Treat Me No Good
Say you’ve lined up Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Zac Brown Band, Kenny Chesney and a whole onslaught of talent from all kinds of music for an outdoor festival. Sounds like a moneymaker, doesn’t it? So how on earth did Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., lose $5 million in three days with HullabaLOU? I could see taking a bit of a loss, but come on. Five million? The president of Churchill Downs Entertainment said that he wanted to create the Kentucky Derby of music festivals (which is a nice goal, by the way) and noted, “When we started out with Derby, it didn’t start out with 155,000 people. And it’s grown for 135 years. Hopefully this thing will grow over the next five to ten years and become something that’s meaningful.” They had hoped to have 90,000 people but wound up with about 78,000. And the lost income from slow tickets, parking and concessions is partly what caused the big loss. They aren’t giving up just yet, though. Organizers say they will try again in 2011.
Photo Credit: Erika Goldring/Getty Images
I’ve seen Dierks Bentley in concert every which way. Arenas, honky tonks, health clubs. But I’ve never seen him (or heard him) sound as good as he did on Wednesday afternoon (June 9). He was in the studio with DJ Al Skop, about 40 other lucky fans and me. The show was broadcasting live on The Highway, the Sirius XM radio station that plays new country, which is weird because other than the fact that it’s from Bentley, there’s nothing very new or mainstream or pop about this country music. It is more old-school roots music that he just bluegrassed up. And it’s even better live than it is on his new Up on the Ridge album.
Bentley was there to christen this Music City Theatre right inside Nashville’sBridgestone Arena, overlooking the Ryman Auditorium and lower Broadway. He only had time for seven songs, but he chose them well. He and his six-man band did old ones like “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go),” “Sideways” and “Feel That Fire,” but even on those, Bentley said he was trying to put a bluegrass twist on them. The other four tunes he played were all good, the kind that Bentley said are good for gettin’ away and doing some good pickin’. And when it came time to sing one of the album’s best and brightest, “Draw Me a Map,” he had Ronnie McCoury fill in for Alison Krausswho shares vocals with Bentley on the album. McCoury also played the hell out of his mandolin on every single song they did.
In the countless interviews Bentley’s done for this album, he keeps saying that it’s not a purely bluegrass album. That it has more of a country/bluegrass sound but with a rock ‘n’ roll mentality. And he usually adds, like he did at this broadcast, that so many of his old songs already had a banjo-driven feel. At this point, I don’t care what he calls it. I think this music is so unique it transcends any kind of box you try to put it in. So much so, I went back for more to hear him play later that night at Nashville’sLimelight.
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.