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Brooks and Dunn
"Steers and Stripes"
A Little Pop, A Lot Of Country 

For most of the 90s, country music has been undergoing a revolution. Gone are the days of twangy acoustic guitars, singers who are more emotion than voice, and country artists spending time in jail for something other than horse theft. In their place are computers, singers who are more GQ and Cosmopolitan than Country Weekly, and, well, country artists

getting arrested for stealing horses. This transformation is not necessarily a good one, and it has created two distinct groups of country music fans: the older fans who miss the days when Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard were popular, and the new school of fans who only know of Dolly Parton because of . . . um . . . something other than her music.

However, there are a few acts in Nashville that have successfully bridged the gap between the old and the new over the years, and among them is the talented duo of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, more commonly known as Brooks & Dunn. They are two of the most talented songwriters and musicians in the country music business today, and throughout their career they've developed a knack for creating music that is appealing to the younger listeners, yet still definitely country. They are arguably the most successful country act that has never appeared on the Billboard Top 40 pop charts.

That trend looks to continue with the release of their newest CD, "Steers and Stripes" from Arista Records. Once again, Brooks & Dunn have managed to put together a collection of music that will reach every fan base, from the tejano country fans, to the old-style Willie Nelson fans, to the present-day Faith Hill and Shania Twain fans. And it is VERY much country.

(l to r) Country duo Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn

The CD starts out with "Only In America," a song that illustrates the American Dream as the ability to not only dream, but to have the freedom to act on those dreams. Look for it on the radio during the summer, right in time for Independence Day. The CD continues with a few songs heavily influenced by Latin grooves, most notably "My Heart Is Lost To You," on which the guys actually sing a few words of Spanish. There is also a heavy dose of the hard, driving rock-country style they've been known to rock more than a few packed arenas with, from the current top-5 smash hit "Ain't Nothing About You" to the last track on the disc, "See Jane Run." And, as always, there are the ballads that normally make or break a CD. In this case, heartfelt tracks such as "The Long Goodbye" and "When She's Gone, She's Gone" provide the variety that keeps the CD from going too much in one direction.

It's been obvious since music began than in all types of music, the artists that are going to stick around the longest are the ones who can adapt to the ever-changing tastes of the fans. However, those that completely alter their styles to suit the public take criticism for not being true artists, and those that stick to what they started with are bound to be phased out of the mainstream. It's the bands and artists that can find a happy balance between these two extremes that stay around the longest. With "Steers and Stripes" Brooks & Dunn have added another CD to a collection that will keep them fresh in the minds - and CD players - of fans of all types of music for many years to come.

Click here to buy "Steers and Stripes"

Review by Mitch Worthington

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