No other duo in country music history has made as much noise, sold as many albums (more than 27 million to date) or had as much fun as Brooks & Dunn. Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks turned the country music industry on its proverbial ear back in 1991 when they released their now sextuple-platinum debut, Brand New Man. The duo hit a nerve with the honky tonk crowd and, save for the poorly received Tight Rope album (1999), have never lost their grip on the country charts.
After eight studio albums, and one monster-selling hits package, Brooks & Dunn are back with The Greatest Hits Collection II, a 17 song disc that includes three new cuts. Few acts have enough material to fill one hits album, let alone two, but Brooks & Dunn have managed to make I and II top-heavy with A-plus material. From the explosive "How Long Gone," to the disc closing mini western "South Of Santa Fe," II contains some of the duo's most powerful work. "If You See Him/If You See Her," the smash duet with Reba McEntire, is one of the best male/female pairings of the '90s. Dunn and McEntire are a perfect vocal match for the aching track.
Turbo-twang numbers like the guttural "Ain't Nothing 'Bout You," the Stones-ish "You Can't Take The Honky Tonk Out Of The Girl" and the timely ode to freedom "Only In America," will fill smoky barrooms for years to come. "I Can't Get Over You," a slow-grinding track with a cool key change, the sorrowful "The Long Goodbye" and the Spanish-flecked "My Heart Is Lost To You" are three of the best songs Kix and Ronnie have recorded since they released their last hits album. "Red Dirt Road," from the duo's 2003 album of the same name (co-written by both singers), is a raunchy country-rocker with a life lesson message that rings with truth.
Not ones to rip their fans off, Kix and Ronnie cut three new songs for The Greatest Hits Collection II. The lead-off track, and first single, the charged "That's What It's All About," is a modern day anthem for the working men and women out there. The dynamic duo wax poetic about the simple pleasures everyday living can bring even when things don't run as smoothly as we want them to. Ronnie absolutely nails "It's Getting Better All The Time," an earnest ballad, while Kix takes the lead for the screwball "Independent Trucker." "Well, my daddy was a world class trucker/ Took my momma on a four day trip/ And she swears to me that I was conceived at a big rig dealership," the ever-funny Brooks sings.
With 21 number one singles to their credit (and a potential 22nd currently climbing its way up the chart), Brooks & Dunn look like they're just getting the engine revved up. Is there any doubt that we'll be seeing a third hits package in a few more years? Only a fool would bet against it.
By Todd Sterling