Album review: Ronnie Dunn’s ‘Ronnie Dunn’

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Before it came to a widely promoted end last year, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn’s two-decade ride on the country music charts and on the concert trail was built on songs that were among the catchiest — and most calculated — in country history.

The duo’s taller half, Ronnie Dunn, was long regarded as the more distinctive singer, and on his solo debut, there’s no more sharing of the spotlight to hold him back. That’s about the only difference between a Brooks & Dunn record and this similarly hit-and-miss collection of odes to blue-collar empathy, patriotism and the transformative power of love.


He knows which buttons to push to fire up his audience, and they’re working full tilt in the autobiographical leadoff track, “Singer in a Cowboy Band” and the honky-tonk-minded “Let the Cowboy Rock.”

“Cost of Livin’” earnestly yet predictably tips the Stetson to the working man, and “Bleed Red” ambitiously recasts Shakespeare’s Shylock speech into an over-the-top country anthem. There’s a dash of mariachi-driven Tex-Mex in “How Far to Waco” but only fleeting glimpses of anything approaching an emotional stretch for a man who’s at long last got the spotlight all to himself.

That shows up at the album’s end in “Love Owes Me One,” in which he sounds full of honest self-pity and more than a shade of uncertainty as he calls it a day on a relationship that hasn’t panned out. “Oh, I’ve had it,” he sings, “leave the safe, brave the lonely, break these chains it’s had on me… some way, my day will come.” Nothing personal, Kix, OK?

Ronnie Dunn
“Ronnie Dunn”
Arista Nashville
Two stars (Out of four)


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— Randy Lewis