& Dunn--and we're not talking Garth and Holly--are part of the vanguard
of "new country" artists who helped redefine the genre in the early
1990s and expand its appeal. With a flair for both clever country
songcraft and pyrotechnic stage shows, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn are a
whole lotta country and a whole lotta rock 'n' roll. It's paid off with
a string of No. 1 and top 10 hits and--ever since the Judds broke up---a
long run as country's reigning duo, winning the Country Music
Association's Vocal Duo Of The Year five consecutive times and the CMA's
1996 Entertainer Of The Year award.
For all their onstage Texas-sized flash and swagger--which owes a big
debt to the trail blazed by Garth--the music of Brooks & Dunn is
actually more closely follows country traditions than does Garth's. Even
when their music rocks hard, the sentiment and lyrics remain wedded to
reliable country touchstones like cheatin', drinkin' and broken hearts.
As a hard-country singer, Dunn, who handles lead vocals the majority of
the time, has few peers. Brooks and Dunn, oil workers' sons from
Louisiana and Texas, became a duo in 1990 when Arista-Nashville
president Tim DuBois, a former songwriter who had earlier found success
by putting together Restless Heart, urged Brooks and Dunn to form an
act. Each had already been in Nashville awhile, seeking success in the
industry: songwriter Brooks had had songs cut by Highway 101, the Nitty
Gritty Dirt Band and Crystal Gayle, while Dunn had recorded two chart
singles for Churchill Records in the early '80s, and had claimed victory
in the 1989 Marlboro National Talent Search.
Brooks and Dunn
When DuBois put
the pair together, the explosion of success came fast and furious. Their
debut album launched the pair toward multi-platinum stardom with four
straight chart-topping singles, including "Brand New Man," "My Next
Broken Heart" and "Boot Scootin' Boogie." The latter launched the
line-dance craze that, for an uncomfortable moment, looked to steer B&D
toward novelty-act status and the country genre toward another "Urban
Cowboy" phase, but somehow both duo and genre survived.
In 1998, Brooks & Dunn teamed up with country diva Reba McEntire for an
unusual cross-promotional project: the release of B&D's album If You See
Her coincided with the release of McEntire's If You See Him, along with
the duet single "If You See Him/ If You See Her."