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Dierks Bentley

Up on the Ridge – 2010 (Capitol Nashville)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Dierks Bentley

Dierks Bentley takes a left, turn, sort of, on his fifth studio disc. Bentley has built a solid reputation as a country artist with a slew of hits and catchy songs with edge. But here, Bentley goes bluegrass or at least 12 songs steeped in that sound. This is nothing new for Bentley, who previously has recorded bluegrass songs.

Much to his credit, Bentley does not come off as a dilettante, but, instead, someone who feels comfortable with the music from the lead-off title track to the closing sad song, "Down in the Mine. As with his country discs, the dozen songs, produced by Jon Randall Stewart, are quite strong with Bentley's vocals owning them. The latter son captures the sadness of life below the surface with lines like "Way down in the mine, your tears turn to mud/And you can't catch your breath for the dust in your lungs/Loading hillbilly gold where the sun never shines."

The musicianship is stellar. That is no surprise given that the Traveling McCoury's - Ronnie McCoury on Mandolin, Mike Bub on bass and Rob McCoury on banjo (Bentley toured with them as well) - help out along with guys like Bryan Sutton acoustic, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Rob Ickes on Dobro. He also gets help from Kris Kristofferson and his rough-hewn vocals on Kristofferson's bouncy Bottle to the Bottom. Rovin' Gambler with the Punch Brothers and Bad Angel with Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson are stand outs. Bluegrass purists be warned - there is electric guitar on two songs with the rest acoustic, but the material typically is on the softer, laid back side.

In this day and age where the idea of taking a risk seems foreign and far-fetched, Bentley stepped up to the plate to do the kind of album he wanted to do.