I still can’t believe that Brooks & Dunn has split. I mean, I remember hearing them for the first time (I can’t remember if it was Crook & Chase or NBC’s short-lived Hot Country Nights). I remember many of the ups and downs in their career, and being stunned by the announcement that they would split up. In this case, “split up” is defined as Kix Brooks sticking around to host American Country Countdown while Ronnie Dunn does a solo album.
Always the more prominent of the duo, Ronnie has so far managed to make his solo career more than just “Brooks & Dunn minus Brooks” (actually, that could describe most of B&D’s output post-1999, but I digress). “Bleed Red” had a message of tolerance wrapped in generic lyrics and production, but elevated greatly by Dunn’s pipes, and the timely message in “Cost of Livin’” made it my favorite song of 2011. But with two ballads in a row, it’s now time to see if this cowboy can still rock.
The answer? Yes. Dunn and Dallas Davidson (for those keeping score, I believe that’s the 493rd Dallas Davidson co-write in the past 3 years) come up with a simple premise: forgetting the trouble of a broken heart, the titular cowboy just hangs out and has a good time. Cute Southern similes such as “like stink on a skunk” give the song a down-home flavor. At 58, Ronnie has lost none of his passion and spark, giving this song the fiery vocal it needs.
I don’t know what Ronnie Dunn’s long-term plans are — will his solo album be just a “last hurrah,” or will he continue to record into his 70s like some of the legends that no doubt inspired B&D? If this song is any indication, the latter might be a wise choice. “Let the Cowboy Rock” indeed.