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Dierks Bentley's approach to recording albums is more akin to that of rock artists' than that of many of his country peers. Instead of establishing a sonic identity and repeating it, he finds it a challenge to give each project its own sound.With "Up on the Ridge," Bentley took the kind of step that aided the critical credibility of Bruce Springsteen, who's been known to follow such commercial blockbusters as "The River" with smaller, riskier efforts like "Nebraska."

Instead of releasing another mainstream country album, Bentley enlisted former Emmylou Harris sidekick Jon Randall Stewart to produce "Up on the Ridge," an album that mines bluegrass, acoustic and Americana music. Bentley got help from many of the genres' finest musicians, including Vince Gill, Sam Bush, Alison Krauss, Tim O'Brien and the McCourys.

"Ridge" netted three Grammy nominations, including one for best country album. Bentley also picked up competing country collaboration entries: Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson teamed with Bentley on "Bad Angel," and Del McCoury and the Punch Brothers (fronted by Nickel Creek mandolin player Chris Thile) aided Bentley's cover of U2's "Pride (In the Name of Love)."

Bentley ended his Up on the Ridge tour at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, the venue where bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe first performed with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs on the Grand Ole Opry. Also appropriate was Bentley's left-field approach to the tour schedule: He completed all of the dates more than two weeks before the album was available.

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