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BROOKS & DUNN “Hard Workin’ Man” ...

BROOKS & DUNN “Hard Workin’ Man” Arista * *

John Hiatt once quipped that a new song should sound familiar enough that people will think they’ve heard it before, yet not so familiar that you wind up in court.

Kix Brooks & Ronnie Dunn have taken Hiatt’s advice to heart, minus the spark of originality Hiatt always ignites.

In this duo’s case, familiarity breeds comfort, not contempt. The title cut of their second album predictably lionizes all things blue-collar, but it’s as unpretentious as this kind of ode can be. “I Can’t Put Out This Fire” finds them credibly sorrowful over a love that cannot be.

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Lyrically, they’ve increased the cleverness quotient a notch from their debut. Still, the stretches between moderately inspired moments remain long enough to parallel-park a Peterbilt in.

Their harmonies sometimes soar like Eagles. The band is studio tight, and frequently studio generic, yet flexible enough to swing from the Jimmy Buffett-like lilt of “Mexican Minutes” to the Creedence-cum-ZZ-Top riffing of “Rock My World (Little Country Girl).”

Brooks & Dunn’s muscular country is aimed less at provoking soul-searching than at packing dance floors with two-steppers, but make no mistake--it will pack those dance floors.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four (excellent).

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