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Hillbilly Deluxe

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Album Review

During the first half of the 2000s Brooks & Dunn broadened their horizons, incorporating stronger elements of pop and rock to their neo-traditionalist country. As its title suggests, 2005's Hillbilly Deluxe finds the duo returning to their roots, creating a lean, tight collection of 13 straight-ahead country songs. This may be a reaction to the romanticization of rednecks in recent country music, but Hillbilly Deluxe doesn't sound crass or commercial. It sounds like a logical back-to-basics move after the rock flirtations of 2001's Steers and Stripes and 2003's Red Dirt Road. Brooks & Dunn don't hide their intentions at all: not only does the album boast a proudly hillbilly title, but the album kicks off with the anthemic "Play Something Country," where a redneck woman implores the DJ to play some "Kenny, Keith, Alan, and Patsy Cline," and Brooks & Dunn follow that advice for the rest of the album, never straying far from country, even when they're covering Nicolette Larson's early-'80s hit "Building Bridges" with Sheryl Crow on backing vocals. Most of this direction seems to come from Ronnie Dunn, who provides the great majority of original material here: six of the 13 songs are from Dunn (all but one co-written with Terry McBride), and his tunes are the purest country here, whether it's barroom tales like "Whiskey Do My Talkin'" or weepers like "I May Never Get Over You." That's not to say that Kix Brooks doesn't have a presence here. With the exception of the poppier "One More Roll of the Dice," he also devotes himself to straight-ahead country, highlighted by the sweetly melancholy "Her West Was Wilder" and the rocking closer, "She Likes to Get out of Town." Brooks might not write as much here as he normally does, but the covers he sings are expertly chosen, and the album as a whole gels as well as either Steers and Stripes or Red Dirt Road. Even though Hillbilly Deluxe isn't quite as ambitious as either of those records, it's just as satisfying and further proof that Brooks & Dunn are one of the most reliable, consistently enjoyable acts in modern country music.

Biography

Formed: 1988 in Nashville, TN

Genre: Country

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The undisputed kings of the '90s line-dancing craze, Brooks & Dunn are not only the biggest-selling duo in country music history, they've also sold more records than any other duo period, including Simon & Garfunkel. Ronnie Dunn was the quietly intense singer with the soulful voice, while Kix Brooks played the part of the high-energy showman. Neither had been able to break through as a solo act, but together they hit upon a winning formula of rambunctious, rocked-up honky tonk with punchy,...
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Hillbilly Deluxe, Brooks & Dunn
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