With seven number one hits on the country music charts, six Grammy nominations and two platinum albums, singer Dierks Bentley is a bona fide country music star. But his new CD, "Up on the Ridge," is a departure from the big stage world of mainstream country. It is all acoustic.

Meredith Ochs has this review.

MEREDITH OCHS: Dierks Bentley arrived in Nashville with dreams of stardom. It was the mid-'90s, the era of arena-rocking country acts like Garth Brooks. But Bentley was drawn to The Station Inn, a small stand-alone club in a marginal neighborhood where a group called The Sidemen played every Tuesday night.

The Sidemen were the backup band for bluegrass legend Del McCoury. Bentley had thought bluegrass was for old folks, but the musicians he started hanging around with taught him otherwise. His new CD pays tribute to those early influences.

(Soundbite of song, "Rovin' Gambler")

Mr. DIERKS BENTLEY (Singer): (Singing) I am the rovin' gambler. I've gambled all around. Whenever I meet with the deck of cards, I lay my money down.

PUNCH BROTHERS (Music Group): (Singing) I lay my money down. I lay my money down.

Mr. BENTLEY: (Singing) Had not been in Frisco many more weeks than three. Yeah, I met up with a pretty little girl. She fell in love with me.

PUNCH BROTHERS: (Singing) Fell in love with me, fell in love with me.

OCHS: The title track of Dierks Bentley's new CD, "Up on the Ridge," is about leaving the city lights of Nashville behind and heading for a rural retreat. But it's also a metaphor for stepping outside of mainstream country with its big money and glittering award ceremonies and getting back to the roots of the music. Bentley enlisted his old friends The Sidemen to play on this song along with Alison Krauss and mandolinist Sam Bush.

(Soundbite of song, "Up on the Ridge")

Mr. BENTLEY: (Singing) Let's blow out these city lights. Let's just leave it all behind. Get up where the air is still. You can hear the whip-poor-will. Start a fire, pass the shine. Won't be home till mornin' time. Shout your name out in the wind. Confess my love for you again. Give you all I got to give. That's how we live up on the ridge. Won't you come with me tonight where moonlight drifts into your eyes? I just want one little kiss when we get high up on the ridge.

OCHS: This is Dierks Bentley's first all-acoustic CD. It isn't big country - or even alternative country - and it isn't bluegrass. But defining music is usually more important to record labels than to musicians. Bentley proves this on his new album. He recruits Del McCoury, a master at transforming rock songs into bluegrass to help him re-imagine this song by the band U2.

(Soundbite of song, "Pride (In the Name of Love)")

Mr. BENTLEY and PUNCH BROTHERS: (Singing) In the name of love. What more in the name of love? In the name of love. What more in the name of love?

OCHS: "Up on the Ridge" was a risk for Dierks Bentley. It leaves the paradigm of commercial country music, a world in which he's enjoyed great success. By drawing from influences like honky-tonk and bluegrass, Bentley sounds as timeless as the older records that inspired him. And the funny thing about country music is that the best way to go forward is to go backward.

(Soundbite of song, "Bad Angel")

SIEGEL: The CD from Dierks Bentley is called "Up on the Ridge." Reviewer Meredith Ochs is a talk show host and DJ at SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio.

(Soundbite of song, "Bad Angel")

Mr. BENTLEY: (Singing) Bad angel, get off of my shoulder. Bad angel, let me be. I'm standing at the crossroads of Temptation and Salvation Street. I woke up bound and determined that I would not light it up today.


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