Album Review: Ronnie Dunn - Peace, Love And Country Music

Former Brooks & Dunn superstar vocalist Ronnie Dunn releases second solo album that is a little scattershot instead of sharply focused.

Although “Country In Texas” name-drops that huge Southwestern state with its title, it is by no means merely an ode to the Lone Star state. Instead, it praises the region’s stubborn spirit. There’s always been a gradual Hollywood-ization of country music going on, but if you watch any of the annual country music awards these days, you’d almost think the genre needed tinsel town’s validation. Texas answers to no one. Same goes for anyone that loves authentic country music.

With the album’s title track, Dunn praises the basics of life – at least the basics of his life. Over a fiddle-colored backing track, Dunn longs for the simple essentials of life by singing, “Lord, we could sure use some more,” [more peace, love and country music, that is] before adding, “We need them like never before.” When he gets to the sing-along chorus, he’s joined simply by a sort of sing-along choir. Think of it as “We Are The World,” albeit on a smaller, more generalized scale.

Whether he intended to do so or not, Dunn oftentimes finds himself getting nostalgic with this latest effort. The song “I Wish I Still Smoked Cigarettes” is not actually about missing sucking down cancer sticks. Rather, it’s nostalgia for that period in his life when he was fearless. When we’re young, we do stupid things because we somehow believe we’re indestructible. On the positive side, though, we’re also not yet overwhelmed by many of the cares of life. We’re invincible, like Manny Pacquiao against the world – unbeatable. Sample lyrics include:


           I wish I still did a lot of things I don’t do anymore

           When I didn’t know what wasn’t good for me

           But I knew everything else for sure

           I guess what I really miss is the freedom in the way it felt, the innocence

           That’s what I really miss when I say, I wish I still smoked cigarettes


Although Dunn didn’t write the song (it was smartly penned by Lori McKenna, Luke Laird and Barry Dean), Dunn at 60 has the life experience to sing these words like he means them. When a man reaches the big 6-0, it’s hoped he’s lived enough  to have a little valuable perspective. And he’s got it.

With that said, though, Peace Love And Country Music is also a rollicking country music album, and by no means any kind of a Dylan-esque, all-introspective work. As proof, look no further than “Let’s Get The Beer Joint Rockin’,” which – as you might already gather from its title – is an upbeat, guitar-twanging dancehall fire starter. Dunn may be rail-thin, but he sure knows how to summon up a whole lot of vocal grit whenever he needs to. And yet, the beautiful, soft contrast that is his cover of the ballad “You Don’t Know Me,” reveals him to also be an expert around a soulful ballad. And ‘soulful’ is the right word for it because Dunn sings it over some  wonderful, churchy organ. 

Peace Love And Country Music may not take Ronnie Dunn into the stadiums Brooks & Dunn once filled consistently, but it nevertheless provides undeniable evidence that the powers that made B&D country superstars are still fueling Mr. Dunn’s solo work.