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Music / Brooks & Dunn

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Kix Brooks (left) and Ronnie Dunn

"If you know which one is Brooks and which one is Dunn ... you might be a redneck."

A long-lasting Country Music duo composed of Leon Eric "Kix" Brooks and Ronald Gene "Ronnie" Dunn, Brooks and Dunn is arguably the definitive country music duo. After several years as struggling solo singer-songwriters, the two were paired at the suggestion of Arista Records Nashville executive Tim DuBois. And all was good. Their first album, Brand New Man, launched four consecutive #1 hits with its first four singles, and went on to sell five million copies. Among those songs was the smash "Boot Scootin' Boogie", instrumental in sparking a line-dancing revival craze that kept up for many years afterward.

Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, the duo was no stranger to country music radio, racking up a total of twenty Number One hits and fifty chart singles overall. They were also a shoo-in for the Country Music Association's Duo of the Year award (winning it from 1992 through 2006), as well as an Entertainer of the Year award in 1996 after the smash cover of B. W. Stevenson's "My Maria", which was also the biggest country hit of that year. The duo started to slip into more of a pop sound, maintaining the hits for the time being but losing its critical acclaim. Come 1999, the duo hit its first commercial low point, as the album Tight Rope produced only one big hit and disappointing sales. Montgomery Gentry — who was only two singles into its career at that point — got the 1999 Duo award at the Academy of Country Music.

Only two years later, Brooks & Dunn got back on track, launching that year with "Ain't Nothing 'bout You", the biggest hit of the duo's career and the biggest country single of 2001. The hits kept on coming for the next few years, but following a second Greatest Hits album, they started to fade away again. Hillbilly Deluxe did account for the duo's last #1 hit in "Play Something Country" and the signature song "Believe", but Cowboy Town sold poorly (even if it produced three Top 10 hits). Kix also found work as a radio host, succeeding Bob Kingsley on the countdown show American Country Countdown in 2006.

In 2009, Kix and Ronnie announced that they would be retiring as Brooks & Dunn. This retirement was led off by a comprehensive #1s... and Then Some compilation, which included two new low-charting singles. Afterward, both members began solo careers on Arista. Dunn released his self-titled album in 2011 and charted in the Top 10 with "Bleed Red", but abruptly left the label in 2012. Kix's New to This Town followed later in 2012. Dunn released another solo album in 2014, and signed to Nash Icon Records in 2016, the same year that saw the duo reunite to tour with Reba McEntire in Las Vegas. In 2019, they announced a duets album titled Reboot, with re-recordings of their major hits starring modern country acts. The lead single to this album is a re-recording of "Brand New Man" featuring Luke Combs.

For all the backstage drama and so forth, there was a huge prize waiting at the end: Induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2019. The first exclusively post-1990s act to earn induction (Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson before them had chart activity in the 1980s), their catalog of music, revved-up honky tonk and inspiration to many duo acts to follow has placed them among country music's elite, and both were genuinely grateful and happy to take their place in the Hall.


  • Brand New Man (1991)
  • Hard Workin' Man (1993)
  • Waitin' on Sundown (1994)
  • Borderline (1996)
  • The Greatest Hits Collection (1997)
  • If You See Her (1998)
  • Tight Rope (1999)
  • Steers and Stripes (2001)
  • It Won't Be Christmas Without You (2002)
  • Red Dirt Road (2003)
  • The Greatest Hits Collection Volume 2 (2004)
  • Hillbilly Deluxe (2005)
  • Cowboy Town (2007)
  • #1s... and Then Some (2009)
  • Reboot (2019)

Tropes present:

  • Album Title Drop: From "You'll Always Be Loved by Me": "Trust is a tight rope we all have to walk…"
  • Book Ends: The first and last song they ever performed together before their reunion was "Brand New Man".
  • Broken Win/Loss Streak: 1996's "Mama Don't Get Dressed Up for Nothin'" was their first single not to hit the Top 10. Three years later, "South of Santa Fe" became their only single not to hit Top 40.
  • Canon Discontinuity: None of the singles from Tight Rope, widely considered their weakest album, appeared on their second Greatest Hits Album in 2004. This means that the album completely ignores two Top 20 hits and a Top 5, in favor of including "South of Santa Fe", the last single from the album before Tight Rope… which happened to be B & D's only single not to even hit Top 40 (and thus, the reason it's the last single where Kix Brooks is the lead singer). This is very likely a Justified Trope, as Kix revealed in 2015 that they were seriously considering a breakup after Tight Rope bombed, because they just felt they had run their course — until the head of their label recommended to them a little song called "Ain't Nothing 'bout You"...
  • Dance Sensation: "Boot Scootin' Boogie" was the Trope Maker for the line-dance craze of The '90s.
  • Dead Sparks: "Husbands and Wives" and "The Long Goodbye."
  • "Dear John" Letter: Left in lipstick on the mirror in "That Ain't No Way to Go."
  • Distant Duet: With Reba McEntire in "If You See Him/If You See Her" and "Cowgirls Don't Cry."
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Most of their break-up songs revolve around this trope. "Neon Moon" is this trope directly, but also "That Ain't No Way to Go," "My Next Broken Heart," "Whiskey Under the Bridge," "More Than a Margarita," "One Heartache at a Time," "Tequila Town," "Brand New Whiskey," "Hurt Train," "Goin' Under Gettin' Over You," and "She's Not the Cheatin' Kind" make references to it.
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: Occurs on "Indian Summer." It's a slow, wistful song about a schoolgirl who was impressed by a football player's skillful performance at a hometown game, and ended up sleeping with him, only to have her life ruined when he bragged about it to his friends afterwards. This is, of course, fatal to one's reputation in a small town, and she ended up having to drop out and move across the country to start over. At the end, the singer regretfully admits that he was the Jerk Jock and now, looking back on it, he wonders if things might have been different had he acted differently. Fade out... a perfect place to end. And then it jumps back in with a strong guitar slide and one last exultant rehash of the chorus, about how cool the whole experience was.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: "She's Not the Cheatin' Kind," about a woman who goes out on the town to get drunk and cheat on her partner, who has been cheating on her. His cheating is bad, hers is seen as justified.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Present in "My Heart Is Lost to You".
  • Greatest Hits Album: The duo's final compilation album was titled #1s... and Then Some, with the "then some" being popular non-#1 hits and two new songs.
  • Hero vs. Villain Duet: "Born and Raised in Black and White" features two brothers singing about their respective lives, and how one grew to be a man of God and the other went on to become a murderer. Their stories collide when the dark brother requests the light brother to be the one to bless his soul before his death sentence is carried out.
  • Long Runner Lineup: Typical of most musical duos.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "I'll Never Forgive My Heart".
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: The titular girl in "Rock My World Little Country Girl," appears to be a country version of this, with her personality of "acts like Madonna but she listens to Merle," preternatural math skills and her outfit of Calvin Klein snakeskin boots paired with dime-store sunglasses.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: "Too Far This Time," in which the singer realizes he's "pushed [his] luck" too much, his girlfriend is leaving him, and there's nothing he can do about it.
  • Narrator All Along: "Indian Summer", about a girl who sleeps with a football player and then drops out of school and moves away due to the resulting gossip. The story is told from the girl's point of view, but the narrator turns out to be the football player, finally putting himself in her shoes years later.
  • New Sound Album: Steers & Stripes and Red Dirt Road were both critically acclaimed for their more muscular, energetic production.
  • The One That Got Away: "If You See Him/If You See Her," a duet with Reba McEntire has both halves of a "one that got away" relationship asking a mutual friend to tell the other first that they they wish each other well, then that they regret how their relationship ended, and then that they still have feelings for the other. In the music video, they each call the mutual friend in the end, asking him that he keep that information to himself, leaving each other forever as The One That Got Away.
  • Rearrange the Song:
    • Hard Workin' Man features a "club mix" of "Boot Scootin' Boogie", an early example of country music songs getting extended dance-themed remixes to cash in on the line-dancing craze.
    • Reboot features re-recordings of some of B&D's bigger hits with a line of contemporary country music artists.
  • Record Producer: The failure of Tight Rope could be attributed to Don Cook's production getting a little tired (Byron Gallimore, with whom the duo had never worked before, did some production as well). Starting with their critically-acclaimed comeback Steers & Stripes in 2001, they began working with Mark Wright, so maybe such a change was in order. They switched again to Tony Brown, best known for his work with George Strait, on their last two albums, and Dann Huff did Reboot.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: At least in live settings. Kix was the more active and energetic of the two, while Ronnie was more straightforward and reserved.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Out of 50 singles, Kix got lead on six: "Lost and Found", "Rock My World (Little Country Girl)", "You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone", "Mama Don't Get Dressed Up for Nothing", "Why Would I Say Goodbye", and "South of Santa Fe". The last of these was supposedly pulled because program directors didn't want another Kix song.
    • While their albums split songs about evenly in favor of Ronnie, on their two Greatest Hits packages, Kix sang 7 out of 35 songs, two of which were newly recorded tracks not released as singles. On "Number 1s... and Then Some", he sings on 3 songs out of 30!
    • In a unique example for their discography, Kix wrote "Only in America" but Ronnie sang it.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: A Real Life example. They reportedly had almost no interaction outside the studio or on tour — they even had separate tour buses, and their pre-show interaction was mostly limited to having a shot of whiskey together before each show. One of them even told Country Weekly that the impetus behind their 2011 breakup was that they just felt like they had been together for too long.
    • It's possible there was even some animosity in the studio. As early as Borderline, there was almost no collaborative songwriting between the two, and the albums have historically had a lack of vocal harmony — Kix is nearly inaudible on songs fronted by Ronnie, and vice-versa (such as this live performance of "Believe", where Kix clearly doesn't sing a single note — to be fair, he's at least playing guitar). It also didn't help that all of their albums tended to have studio vocalists such as John Wesley Ryles, Harry Stinson, and Wes Hightower doing most of the backing vocals.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change:
    • "Only in America" goes up from E to F at the last chorus.
    • Present in the re-recorded version of "Cowgirls Don't Cry" that features a guest vocal from Reba McEntire. The song comes to a dead stop for a few seconds and jumps up a fifth for the end; even worse, the music just sounds like it was artificially pitched up on this version. Neither the key change nor the dead stop are present on the original, Brooks & Dunn-only version.
  • Was It All a Lie?: Asked in "That Ain't No Way to Go."
  • What's He Got That I Ain't Got?!: "He's Got You," which doubles as the answer to the question.