By Jeff Leven
Up on the Ridge comprises ambitious covers executed with modesty and respect, magnanimous co-writes and a loving attention to sonic detail; a true celebration of the state of modern country. A smoldering cover of Dylan’s “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power)” features gorgeous fiddle and mandolin interplay, while the wistful “Draw Me A Map” ranks among Bentley’s most poignant ballads, with its aching lead vocal performance; a chart-topper like this guy integrating as deep and disparate a group of performers as Kris Kristofferson, Alison Krauss, Miranda Lambert and Vince Gill is the icing on this home-made cake. (For the rockists, it’s the equivalent of The Fray doing a deep blues record with Eric Clapton, Rivers Cuomo, B.B. King and Thom Yorke.) Bentley’s creative vision and foresight is rewarded with the fearless execution of this wieldy undertaking.
By Stephen M. Deusner
His deep drawl is both robust and laidback, without the painted-on twang of so many big-hat country acts, and it sounds best when he can blur the line between rock and country. So his decision to make a bluegrass-themed album of mostly covers is a little puzzling. Trading his electric guitar for banjos, mandolins, and fiddles, Up On The Ridge foregoes his usual bravado for downhome earnestness. He never sounds especially persuasive or invested, whether he’s seducing a woman on the title track, fêting a civil rights leader on U2’s “Pride (In The Name of Love),” or retracing Dylan’s footsteps on the deserter’s yarn “Señor (Tales of Yankee Power).” Even Kris Kristofferson can’t enliven the drinking ode “Bottle to the Bottom,” and if you’re going to get Jamey Johnson and Miranda Lambert together in the studio, you gotta do better than a wan take on Verlon Thompson’s vice ode “Bad Angel.”