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Now, THIS is Hillbilly Deluxe!
on October 2, 2007
Now, this is a little more like it. I admit, 2005's HILLBILLY DELUXE was a big hit for the guys, but I felt it was really just average work. As the Amazon reviewer pointed out above, Brooks & Dunn's albums do tend to have about an even mix of great songs and suprisingly mediocre ones. And while COWBOY TOWN isn't perfect, it certainly hits more than it misses.
The lead single, "Proud of the House We Built" is cut from the same cloth as 2003's excellent "Red Dirt Road." The guys' affection for the Rolling Stones (heard also in two songs on the RED DIRT ROAD disc) comes through not only in direct references ("Johnny Cash Junkie") but in the playful, honkytonk rhythm of cuts like the spirited "Put a Girl In It."
In fact, much of COWBOY TOWN pays tribute to seventies-era rock and country. Kix Brooks' "Drop in the Bucket" is such a textbook ZZ Top number, I was surprised to learn the song wasn't a cover of some lost tune from the fun-lovin' Texans. Brooks' ongoing Seger-esque observations of lost joys of youth inform every moment of "Ballad of Jerry Jeff Walker", which features a gargoyle-voiced cameo from its title character.
Inevitably, after nearly an album's worth of up-tempo numbers about cowboys, girls and booze, the duo succumbs to the now-obligatory Thoughtful Ballad or two. Good intentions aside, it's hard to defend such trite observations as "A preacher named King/Well, he had a dream" (from "American Dreamer") or most any line from the current events travelogue of the second single "God Must Be Busy." With ballads--and Brooks and Dunn should know this by now, after "Believe" spent like 30 weeks on the charts--less is more. The guys are at their best when they relax with a simple story song like "Cowgirls Don't Cry."
I think COWBOY TOWN works for both longtime fans and relative newcomers. For the former, the album is along the same lines as RED DIRT ROAD, with less filler. And to the latter, it might prove a welcome remedy from the same old redneck garbage being put out by Toby Keith, or any number of slick but empty new artists clogging up the radio.