The duo of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn are certainly one of the most amiable acts in Top 40 Country... and one of the most successful. Year after year, album after album, they've racked up dozens of hits and made millions of fans. Some of their stuff is a little too slick for me, but a lot of it is just plain good fun. Heres a quick look at their music...




Best Ofs

Brooks And Dunn "Greatest Hits Collection" (Arista, 1997)
A fine set of their biggest hits to date, along with a trio of new tunes, "Honky Tonk Truth," "He's Got You," and "Days of Thunder."


Brooks & Dunn "Greatest Hits Collection 2" (Arista, 2004)
Here's a darn fine best-of, cherrypicking their later work from 1998-2004, with a heavy dose of recent singles and three new tracks unique to this album. There are plenty of album tracks that would've been nice to hear as well, but if you just want a taste of what these guys do, well... here it is... Some of the most tightly-crafted commercial country of the decade... It's not totally my cup of tea, but if youre gonna do the Nashville thing, these guys are about as good as it gets.


Brooks And Dunn "#1's...And Then Some" (Arista, 2009)
A 2-CD best-of set...




Discography - Albums

Brooks And Dunn "Brand New Man" (Arista, 1991)
(Produced by Don Cook & Scott Hendricks)

Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn certainly embodied the "young country" sound of the '90s... starting with this relatively brash debut, and settling inexorably into a world of slicker, sleeker, super-professional studio wizardry. You could try and kick up a fuss about how these guys are too gimmicky, or whatever... But why even try to fight it? This is a pleasantly melody-driven, hook-laded debut, and about as fine a trad-oriented country album as you're ever likely to find. Slick country shuffles faultlessly, flawlessly packed with catchy, irresistible riffs and well-written pop songs. Even the slower ballads, like "Neon Moon" are quite nice. Good stuff... really!! This includes several big hits, most notably "Boot Scootin' Boogie," one of the key anthems of the early '90s line dancing scene. It's prefab, but unpretentious, and kinda fun if you're into it!


Brooks And Dunn "Hard Workin' Man" (Arista, 1993)
(Produced by Don Cook & Scott Hendricks)

Slick, pleasantly poppy, inoffensive, full of well-crafted (if overly perfect) rootsy-sounding country. The slower AOR-ish ballads and some of the more blaring numbers (like "Rock My World, Little Country Girl") are kinda lame. But the more traditionally-oriented material ain't bad; these guys follow the a-little-something-for-everyone album making model... I'm not as blown away as their more devoted fans, but I could certainly think of worse stuff to listen to.


Brooks And Dunn "Waitin' On Sundown" (Arista, 1994)
(Produced by Don Cook & Scott Hendricks)

A mixed bag, with a few good tunes and some real drek. This disc kicks off with several drearily prefab tunes, with a Poco/Eagles-ish country-rock, plug-in-the-formula studio moves. Bleahh. They make up for it a few tunes later -- songs like "I'll Never Forgive My Heart," "Whiskey Under The Bridge," "If That's The Way You Want It" are kinda rootsy and enjoyable -- but it's still kind of depressing to hear how uninspiring they could become, and how little time it took.


Brooks And Dunn "Borderline" (Arista, 1996)
(Produced by Don Cook, Kix Brooks & Ronnie Dunn)

An album I started out totally prepared to like, though I have to admit, I eventually felt that most of the songs dragged on a bit too much. It kicks off with the album's biggest hit, a swell cover version of B.W. Stevenson's "My Maria," which is great fun, although it follows the original so closely that it's really kinda of cheating. (I don't think most of their fans knew it was a cover tune, though, and I'm sure B.W. was plenty happy cashing the royalty checks...) I also liked the song "One Heartache At A Time," which is a pretty straightforward honkytonk number, but the majority of the songs on here are too prefab and studio-perfect... Still, I like how the formula is being used; B'n'D are unashamedly commercial, and when they get their groove down right, they deserve all the success they can find. This one might not be a keeper, but it's not a dud, either.


Brooks And Dunn "If You See Her" (Arista, 1998)
(Produced by Don Cook, Kix Brooks & Ronnie Dunn)

Another super-slick, have-it-both-ways, mostly effective mix of pop and country. A few songs are duds, notably "South Of Santa Fe" (which stands out like a sore thumb)... Others are quite nice, ranging from the bright, bouncy singles, to surprising album tracks such as their cover of Gary Stewart's "Brand New Whiskey," and the thoughtful outlaw ballad "Born And Raised In Black & White." I dunno -- anyone who covers Gary Stewart is alright by me, even if they do sing drek like the title song (a screechy-syrupy duet with Reba McEntire) or dorky novelty tunes like "Your Love Don't Take A Backseat To Nothin'." Overall, this album is a bit too slick, but there's still some pretty good stuff that you could pick out for a mix tape or whatever.


Brooks And Dunn "Tight Rope" (Arista, 1999)
(Produced by Don Cook, Byron Gallimore, Kix Brooks & Ronnie Dunn)

The blues, rock and soft-pop touches kinda overwhelm the country core as this album opens, but the disc's second half is a big improvement... I guess everyone's entitled to a change of pace, but the poppy stuff on here is a bit much for a fusty old fence-sitter like me... I kept waiting for the country to kick in, but it kept sounding like rock to me. Then, midway through, things start to improve: "Too Far This Time" turned out to be pretty nice, despite the dragging synthesizer intro, "Don't Look Back Now," was pleasant in a Restless Heart country-rock kinda way, and "All Out Of Love" is kinda irresistibly narcotic... I guess "Beer Thirty" was a nice attempt at a good old-fashioned good ole boy romp, too... And "Trouble With Angels" is a nice little sleeper, too. I could see some of these tunes growing on me over time.


Brooks And Dunn "Steers And Stripes" (Arista, 2001)
(Produced by Mark Wright, Kix Brooks & Ronnie Dunn)

This may be their masterpiece... As an album emblematic of its time, the studio-obsessed, high-tech turn of the century, this album is pretty hard to match, a seamless, super-slick, unstoppable, hook-laden, multilayered hitmaking juggernaut drawing on a deep reservoir of good-natured hard country honkytonk. It's kind of relentless, but flawless constructed... these guys really knew what they were doing. I find the first third of the album to be pretty enjoyable, then I start to feel a little worn down by it, and put off by the macho swagger, and then the . But I totally see why folks were into it: this is easily one of the five best top country albums of the time... If you want to check out an unusually strong album which mastered the intricate pop formulae that Nashvillers made in full play going into the 21st Century, this is a damn good record to check out. Plus, songs like "Lucky Me, Lonely You" are just plain killer-diller country. Recommended.


Brooks And Dunn "It Won't Be Christmas Without You" (Arista, 2002)
Pretty much what ya'd expect. Some total corn, a couple of fun tunes, and several disasterous ones with a '50s-rock sheen. If you're into Xmas music, this has some nice moments, and by comparison to other contemporary Nashville holiday albums, it's positively rootsy and rollicking. Worth checking out, particularly if you're a fan of the band. Their version of "Hangin' Round The Mistletoe" is really enjoyable. (For more Christmas stuff, see my Country Christmas section.)


Brooks & Dunn "Red Dirt Road" (BMG-Arista, 2003)
The boys seem to have parlayed their mega-success and ease with lavish studio production techniques into, well, the chance to indulge themselves a bit. Although there are some straightahead Nashville-style honkytonk songs on here, many of these tracks seem more exploratory and even stream-of-consciouness, an interesting (and risky!) approach for Top Ten cowpokes to take. Some of these songs are also quite dorky, in an almost-endearing way (but for me, the dips into warmed-over Southern rock and would-be Muscle Shoals soul sometimes get in the way...) This also includes obligatory, somewhat perfunctory nods towards the Working Man and the boys in uniform -- no big surprise there. This is a pretty uneven release, though -- kind of a letdown from the tightly-crafted, hit-oriented cow-pop of their last couple of records.


Brooks & Dunn "Hillbilly Deluxe" (BMG-Arista, 2005)


Brooks & Dunn "Cowboy Town" (Sony-BMG/Arista, 2007)
(Produced by Tony Brown, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn)

Another nice one from Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn. This disc is a mixed bag that both plays it safe and pushes the envelope, embracing outlaw country and the brand of bouncy, Top 40 neotrad pop that they helped perfect over a decade back. The title track, which opens the album, is pure linedancing formula, an ode to some now-mythical land of boot wearin', truck drivin', America-lovin', middle-class, rancher-rodeo rider family men who rope steers and brand cattle on their coffee break after they change the toner cartridge on the office copy machine. The lyrics are practically a recitation of lines strung together from every hit B&D ever had. Sounds good, though. It's followed by "Proud Of The House That We Built," an on-the-nose anthem of praise for teenage lovers who stick together and build a family, while other kids are out partying and having fun. But just when you think, uh-oh, it's gonna be one of those too-slick, by-the-numbers albums, they loosen their bolo ties and start singing the praises of hardcore honkytonk and the Austin outlaw scene. The aggressive twang and thunder of "Johnny Cash Junkie (And A Buck Owens Freak)" seems a little forced, but their tribute to Jerry Jeff Walker (with the Scamp himself singing along) is a remarkably honest and believable homage to the stoned, stupified glory days of the indie-country scene of Texas in the 1970s. Completely out of left field and it made me see Brooks & Dunn in a totally different light. Then there are a couple of rowdy-livin' drinkin' songs that are in keeping with the current rash of Southern-rockish bad-boy country, that seem similarly uncommercial and unlike much of the duo's old catalogue... Good for them! They're big stars who aren't afraid to do whatever they want to. The album closes on a safer note -- "American Dreamer" and "God Must Be Busy" are the kind of cliche-heavy tearjerkers that Nashville lives and breathes by, but like everything else on here, they're also signs of Brooks & Dunn's continued mastery of country music, in all its forms and styles. There's a little something here for everybody, all across the twang spectrum, including the hits you'll hear on the radio. Keep 'em coming, guys.


Ronnie Dunn "Ronnie Dunn" (Sony Nashville, 2011)
A solo set from Mr. Dunn...




Links

  • Wikipedia has a good entry, probably about 87% accurate, too!





Hick Music Index



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