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Brooks & Dunn

Red Dirt Road – 2003 (Arista)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Brooks & Dunn

From the opening strains of Brooks & Dunn's latest, it's a case of d+jē vu all over again. No, that's not Keith Richards on guitar on the lead-off "You Can't Take the Honky Tonk Out of the Girl," though coupled with that, a wailing sax and backing vocals, you could be forgiven if you thought so.

The quality of performance on the remaining 13 songs is satisfactory, but not much more. Both principals sing well enough as usual with Dunn clearly the stronger voice. He does a creditable turn on the title track, a fine tale of life as it used to be.

And the instrumentation proves interesting at times. A harp starts off one of the album's best songs, "That's What She Gets For Loving Me" on which Dunn sings with tenderness and emotion. Mandolin sprinkles "When We Were Kings." The main weakness is that few of the songs go above and beyond. Too often, there's a bit too much emphasis on a big sound, principally with drums, something that B&D has been guilty of in the past. "Feels Good Don't It" has a loud guitar sound, but never takes off. "Good Day to Be Me" also rocks too much and includes a pandering line of praying for the soldiers.

They also certainly go beyond country for a lot of blues songs. Slide guitar punctuates several songs. The backing gospel vocals on the bluesy "I Used to Know This Song By Heart" followed by the wailing guitars sounds quite fine, but the guitars go on too long. They opt for a gospel sound elsewhere as well ("Believer") on another bluesy track. And go straight blues rock on the closing "Good Cowboy." This is no great leap forward or backwards for B&D. There's enough diversity here to make for good music, but sometimes less is more.