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The brand new album from Brooks & Dunn featuring the hit single Proud of the House We Built. Cowboy Town is the much anticipated follow up to Brooks & Dunn's highest selling album in 10 years, Hillbilly Deluxe.
Brooks and Dunn albums often blend powerful, soaring performances with a number of utter throwaways. "American Dreamers," a nostalgic look back, "God Must Be Busy," a powerful musing on present travails, and "Cowgirls Don't Cry," reflecting on life's curve balls, all surpass the utterly predictable "Proud of the House We Built." Likewise, "Tequila"'s driving country boogie trumps fluff like "Cowboy Town" and "Drop in the Bucket." While ostensibly honoring two departed icons (along with Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Sr.), "Johnny Cash Junkie (Buck Owens Freak)" seems mainly conceived to invoke those hallowed names alongside those of the Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, and CMT. Far stronger is "The Ballad of Jerry Jeff Walker," a knowing celebration of the Texas legend (who does a cameo) and the '70s Austin country-rock scene he dominated. The edgy, inspired arrangement of the Darrell Brown/Radney Foster tune "Drunk on Love" churns and rocks, yet never once does the arrangement overwhelm the witty lyrics. In the end, the same question remains: How can an act so capable of greatness deliver such uneven albums? --Rich Kienzle
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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.
Proud of the house we built and Put a Girl in It both made the top 5 in the American country chart, while God must be busy peaked at #11. A fourth single, Cowgirls don't cry, was released in two versions - firstly as it appears on the album, but later with vocals overdubbed by Reba McEntire, in the latter form charting at #2. I'd like to hear the overdubbed version, but it isn't on the album.
Kix Brooks co-wrote four songs (The Ballad Of Jerry Jeff Walker (Featuring Jerry Jeff Walker), Drop In The Bucket, Chance Of A Lifetime and American Dreamer) and sings lead on all four. Ronnie Dunn co-wrote some but not all of the other songs, and is the lead singer on all of them. Kix and Ronnie didn't write any of the songs here together.
Sometimes my favourite songs on an album are the ones released as singles, but not always. While I enjoy all the songs here immensely, my favorites are . Johnny Cash Junkie (Buck Owens Freak), Cowgirls don't cry (even without Reba), Put a Girl in It and Cowboy Town - so I partially agree with the choice of singles, but it must have been hard to choose from so many great songs.
I haven't heard any of their subsequent music, but I remember that the original reason for the duo was that Ronnie was a great singer while Kix was an OK singer who was great on stage, Together, they were greater than the sum of their parts. Having become famous, it remains to be seen how well they do in their solo careers.
I strongly encourage readers to go buy the Wal-Mart version with the three bonus tracks. One of the bonus tracks, "Damn Right I'm Gonna Miss You," is reminiscient of B&D's "Red Dirt Road" and Pat Green's "Way Back Texas." The song is absolutely my favorite on the album and will make a great single if released. I was surprised to learn the track was originally cut by Terri Clark.
Cowboy Town has some great songs and some not-so-great songs and includes a whloe lot of drinking songs, but is a great listen overall. Enjoy!