Brooks & Dunn’s Ronnie Dunn say he and Kix Brooks can write songs as good as ever, and his partner adds that they share ideas from time to time. But that doesn’t mean their first album of original music since Cowboy Town in 2007 is imminent.
It’s been a decade since the Country Music Hall of Fame inductees notched a Top 5 radio hit, and they recognize they’re at an age where it’s more challenging to climb charts than it was when they started in 1991(Dunn is 66, Brooks is 64). Since 1985, only one artist over 60 years old has scored a Billboard airplay No. 1 — Kenny Rogers with “Buy Me a Rose” in 2000.
The popularity of Reboot, their recent album of remastered hits featuring contemporary country stars, and the deafening enthusiasm shown by fans of all ages during an hour-long set at the Taste of Country Music Festival on Saturday night (June 8) prove they’re still worth paying for. This wasn’t an ironic bucket list kind of applause and appreciation — the duo arguably won the weekend.
A uncompromising breakup in 2010 has slow-rolled into a full-fledged reunion with a Las Vegas residency, a tour of major festivals, a compilation album and a media tour as they prepare for October’s induction into the Hall of Fame. An album of new material is the natural next step in this progression, right?
“I don’t know how that works these days,” Dunn admits. “We know how to make records and write songs, but I don’t know how you work the system to get it heard anymore.”
“We’re not a young act trying to get going,” Brooks adds during the duo’s interview prior to their ToC Fest set. “There’s a system for that. For us, it’s not like we never talk about writing a song — hey, I’ve got an idea, kicking stuff around like we always have. If we screwed up and wrote some songs, we’d probably record them and put them out.”
Dunn jumps back in: “Not to sound cocky but we can write songs as good as we ever could, I think. It’s just going through the political process of what you have to do, like Kix said, to make it happen,” he says. “I don’t know if we have the gas or the want to to do that. That’s called ‘work.'”
Both men laugh, but the point is no joke. Streaming has proven to be a young man’s game, unless you’re Billy Ray Cyrus and have paired with a young rapper who caught fire with a viral release. Fewer stores are stocking fewer albums on shelves than they did when Brooks & Dunn dominated in the ’90s and ’00s. In a sense, the pair are amateurs again — amateurs who are not eager to spend a sleepless week or month promoting a new record.