Dierks Bentley and the Travelin' McCourys
- With: Hayes Carll
- When: 8 p.m. Sunday, May 2 CANCELED DUE TO FLOODING IN NASHVILLE
- Where: Bijou Theatre, 803 S. Gay St.
- Tickets: $31.50; available at all Tickets Unlimited outlets, 865-656-4444
UPDATE: The Sunday, May 2, performance by Dierks Bentley and others has been canceled due to weather and flooding conditions in Nashville.
Dierks Bentley was a little taken aback when a country music magazine said he'd "taken a break from country" on his upcoming album "Up on the Ridge."
"I've probably made the most country record of my career!" says Bentley. "That's what this album is. But, if your frame of reference for what country music is only goes back to 1990, you're going to have a serious problem understanding this album. Mine (reference) goes back to Bristol (the first recordings by the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers) and maybe a little bit before."
The disc is certainly the most ambitious of Bentley's career. It includes covers of Bob Dylan's "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)," U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" and the classic folk song "Rovin' Gambler." And, if anything, owes more to new grass than bluegrass.
Guests on "Up on the Ridge" include vocalists Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Jamey Johnson, Miranda Lambert, Sonya Isaacs and Chris Stapleton of the Steeldrivers. And guest instrumentalists include Chris Thile and the Punch Brothers; the Del McCoury Band; mandolin, multi-instrumentalist Sam Bush; dobro player Rob Ickes; guitarist Bryan Sutton; and fiddler Stuart Duncan.
"Truthfully, it's something I've been thinking of doing for a long time - making a record that's a little more in the bluegrassy direction," says Bentley. "I think it's when I first went to the Station Inn when I was 19 years old and first got turned on to bluegrass music. When I walked into that bar I realized that bluegrass is the most authentic and mind-blowingly cool music that there is."
Born in Phoenix, Bentley spent part of his youth in Lawrenceville, N.J., and later moved to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt University.
Bentley began a string of country hits in 2003 with the Billboard Country No. 1 "What Was I Thinkin', " which was followed with "How Am I Doin?," "Lot of Leavin' Left to Do," "Every Mile a Memory," "Sideways" and many others. There's always been a hint of banjo, fiddle and mandolin on every album.
"I've always tried to include that music in one form or another or put a bluegrass track at the end of every album," says Bentley.
He says one of the keys to the sound of the album is producer/musician/singer-songwriter Jon Randall Stewart - who has a long history in both country (under the name Jon Randall) and bluegrass.
"If I'd made this record a couple of years ago I probably would've made a true bluegrass record," says Bentley. "Once we started working on it we realized we didn't want to have any genre limitations. We put electric bass and drums on stuff. It's not a country record. We just wanted to worry about making a great record.
Great moments include having Del McCoury singing the chorus and the Punch Brothers playing on U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)" - a track Bentley seems particularly proud of.
The current tour, which will be audiences' first chance to experience music from the disc, features the Travelin' McCourys (the Del McCoury band without Del) and includes songs from the new album, familiar Bentley favorites and some surprise covers.
"This is a way to step back from what I normally do," says Bentley.
"Whatever happens I've already achieved my goal. All I can hope for is that my fans love it, and if they don't like it, hopefully they'll respect that I'm not trying to do the same things over and over again. I'm trying to push the boundaries and keep myself interested. ... And, really, I feel like I'm going back and claiming some territory that I have history with."
© 2010, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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