My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review – Ronnie Dunn – ‘Ronnie Dunn’

Ronnie Dunn’s long-awaited solo debut finds the singer staying close to the signature Brooks & Dunn sound, although with slightly more emphasis on the contemporary end of the country music spectrum. There are no fiddles and very little steel guitar to be found, but there is a healthy helping of Southern rock and even a dash of Tex-Mex, which make for a much more interesting album than I was expecting after the somewhat bland lead single “Bleed Red”, Dunn’s first solo Top 10 hit, which I reviewed back in February. Dunn produced the album himself and had a hand in writing nine of the album’s twelve tracks.

The album opens with the (presumably) autobiographical “Singer In A Cowboy Band”, one of the rock-leaning songs, which, though well written and well performed, contains some heavy-handed electric guitar work, which I found somewhat distracting. More effective is “I Don’t Dance”, which is also rock-flavored but with less intrusive electric guitars. Better yet is the quieter “Your Kind of Love”, one of only three tracks that Dunn didn’t write or co-write. Composed by Maile Misajon and Jeremy Stover, it’s a little closer to the familiar Brooks & Dunn sound and seems to be a good prospect for a future hit single. “How Far To Waco”, co-written with Terry McBride, opens with the sound of trumpets blaring and is reminiscent of the type of record The Mavericks used to make back in the 90s and would be another good choice for a single release. And finally, we get to hear some steel guitar on “Once”.

Overall, the tracks that work best are the quieter ones: “Last Love I’m Trying”, “I Can’t Help Myself”, and “Love Owes Me One”. But hands down, the best song on the album is the current single “Cost of Livin'”, a stripped-down track that is a testament to the current economic hard times. It tells the tale of an out-of-work war veteran who is struggling to make ends meet while he searches for new employment opportunities. Unfortunately, far too many people will be able to relate to this one. But despite the bleak circumstances he finds himself in, the protagonist is still hopeful that things will improve. This track is a masterpiece, which I can’t praise enough and it makes me wish that Dunn would release an all-acoustic album in the vein of Dwight Yoakam’s dwightyoakamacoustic.net.

iTunes offers a deluxe version of the album with two bonus tracks: “Boots and Diamonds”, and “King of All Things Lonesome”, both of would have been worthy of space on the main part of the album.

Although not every track on the album was to my taste — I could have done without “Singer In A Cowboy Band” and “Let The Cowboy Rock” — I found myself liking it more with repeated listenings. Dunn has succeeded in widening his repertoire a bit while still retaining the vintage Brooks & Dunn sound that should keep long-time fans feeling satisfied.

Grade: B+

7 responses to “Album Review – Ronnie Dunn – ‘Ronnie Dunn’

  1. bob June 16, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Good review. I just bought the album last week. I didn’t care much for “Once” and I agree with your comment that “Bleed Red” is bland. I think that “Cost of Livin'”, written by Dunn and Phillip Coleman, is as good as you say it is and agree that the quieter tracks work best. (Coleman also co-wrote Jo Dee Messina’s “Downtime” with Carolyn Dawn Johnson.)

  2. Occasional Hope June 16, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Cost Of Livin’ is great.

  3. luckyoldsun June 20, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Album got a rave review from John Caramanica in the New York Times–“No one’s holding Mr. Dunn back on his self-titled solo debut album, one of the year’s most impressive country releases and a showcase for sounds and moods that rarely felt at home in Brooks & Dunn…”
    L.A. Times reviewer was more mixed.

    I think Dunn may actually be underrated–He’s in many ways the greatest male country artist of the past 20 years, as far as writing, recording and performing.

    • bob June 20, 2011 at 3:10 pm

      I also think Dunn is underrated. Of those who were active for almost all of the last twenty years, I think you have a good point about Dunn being the greatest male country artist. I guess the competition would be George Strait, Tim McGraw, Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney. Of this group, the only one who may arguably be a better songwriter is Keith. I think Dunn’s clearly the best vocalist of this group and a dynamic performer, especially compared to Strait. While I prefer the music of Hal Ketchum and Collin Raye to Dunn’s, they were not successful for nearly as long.

      • luckyoldsun June 21, 2011 at 2:11 pm

        I guess Alan Jackson should be in the mix–and also Garth, even though he withdrew from the scene.
        I think all of them are good, but I just think that Dunn can do things vocally that the others can’t–as far as hitting notes and bringing in elements of R&B and other genres. And to me at least, he sounds natural when extends himself–not contrived or showing off.

        I’m sure Dunn wishes he had done this 5 or 10 years ago, going out on his own. It’s amazing that he still sounds like he does at 58. I hope he still has at least a couple of #1 singles in him. I’m happy that he at least has a #1 album!

  4. pwdennis June 21, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    I’ve listened to the album a couple times through, and while it’s not terrible, I don’t think this one will stay in heavy rotation in my player for much longer. C+ seems about right for this one. I think Ronnie has a pretty decent voice and I’d love to hear him try material that was less pop-country oriented. Interestingly enough, he was Kix’s guest on American Country Countdown this past weekend and he indicated to Kix that his voice wasn’t well suited to the more traditional country sounds. I’m not sure that I agree, but it is true that most of the great traditionalist country singers tended to be baritones or low tenors

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