I have never been into Dierks Bentley. He is just so pretty and his music too slick. I saw him as merely another Music City pop music phenom for the Hot Country radio stations. Then Up On The Ridge slapped me on the side of the head. Pretty hard; left a mark I think. This may be the best acoustic album I've heard this year.
Bentley recorded with a collection of hot young pickers and bluegrass icons. Chris Thile's band, Punch Brothers, featuring Noam Pickelny on banjo and Chris Eldridge on guitar, formed the core back-up band on several cuts. Other players included Bryan Sutton on guitar, Rob Ickes on Dobro and Ronnie McCoury on mandolin. Del McCoury, Vince Gill, Kris Kristofferson, and Alison Krauss also added their inimitable vocal talents to the project.
For songs Bentley ranged far and wide. Covers of Kris Kristofferson's "Bottle to The Bottom," Julie and Buddy Miller's "Love Grows Wild," Shawn Camp's "Fallin' For You," U2's "Pride (In The Name of Love), " and Bob Dylan's "Senor," join five songs co-written by Bentley. Jon Randall Stewart, who served as producer, was Bentley's co-writer for three songs. Their "Draw Me a Map," a pop/country confection, especially benefits from the acoustic arrangement.
No doubt Bentley has a fine lead voice, but what makes this album more than another "so and so AND" album is the level of interaction and involvement by the other musicians. Instead of mixing and arranging the tunes so to put Bentley up front, Bentley and Stewart chose to position him as another band member, albeit the one who sings all the leads. The result comes across as a labor of love rather than merely current product. I stand, happily corrected – now I'm a Dierks Bentley fan.