Following the momentum-reviving Steers & Stripes album, Brooks & Dunn released Red Dirt Road in 2003. This album would continue the evolution of the sound of the duo, with more pop-leaning tracks and fewer of the high-octane honky tonk that defined their 1990s work.
Another generous helping of music from the duo – the 15 tracks total just under an hour’s worth of music – it would also continue in the success of its predecessor, hitting #1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, and housing three top 10 singles.
The title track was the lead single, and quickly shot to the top. With a basic concept that could easily become cringe-worthy, writers Kix and Ronnie keep the lyrics simple enough for everyman, yet original enough to please the tough-sell critics. And lines like ‘I learned the path to heaven, Is full of sinners and believers’ aren’t really ground-breaking, they’re definitely worth repeating. The catchy melody didn’t hurt it any with radio either.
Backsliding a little into old habits, ‘You Can’t Take The Honky Tonk Out of The Girl’ tells the story of Connie, a jet-setting honky tonk lady who shows up barefoot at her cousin’s wedding reception before eventually running off with the groom to Mexico. This classy gem went to #3 on the charts.
The final single – which peaked at #6 – is the romantic ‘That’s What She Gets For Loving Me’, not to be confused with Diamond Rio’s ‘That’s What I Get For Loving You’. The swaying number, complete with fiddle and steel, is a great listen, and Ronnie turns in a stellar vocal performance.
Other memorable moments include the bluesy plea for mercy ‘Caroline’, which finds Ronnie reaching for falsetto a little more often than is really necessary. ‘Feels Good Don’t It’, written by Ronnie Dunn with Terry McBride, is a classic rock inspired ode to true love.
‘I Used To Know This Song By Heart’ is one of my favorites from the album. My favorite Brooks & Dunn songs are the great ballads Ronnie Dunn’s blistering tenor bring to life, and this is great example of that. The Jerry Lynn Williams-penned tune features nearly 2 minutes work of electric guitar solos in between Ronnie’s vocal, and the choir in the background gives the song a vintage vibe.
Again stepping outside their comfort zone, the calypso-inspired ‘Till My Dying Day’ is a fun listen. A swampy guitar kicks off the swinging ‘My Baby’s Everything I Love’, which sounds like something that would feat neatly on a George Strait album.
Meandering through every topic and emotion imaginable, this album seems like it has more of Kix and Ronnie’s personal stamp on it than any other album of their career, and for that, it’s also the most varied, yet cohesive set in their catalog. Listening to the songs in order, you get a sense the two were trying to tell their stories, one by one, and succeeded on almost every level. Co-produced with Mark Bright, Red Dirt Road would be another platinum-selling album to add to the duo’s collection, and further cemented their place as the reigning duo in country music for the next few years.
Red Dirt Road is in print, and is widely available at all retailers, including Amazon.