Brooks & Dunn Starter Kit

Brooks & DunnWhen news broke of Brooks & Dunn’s impending breakup, we decided to move up our planned Starter Kit feature on this quintessential nineties act.

It’s hard to imagine a time when Brooks & Dunn winning an industry award was a breath of fresh air, but when they surfaced in 1991, they quickly ended the long reign of The Judds at the industry award shows.  Brooks & Dunn would then make The Judds dominance seem like child’s play. They’d go on to win 19 CMA awards, including 14 in the Vocal Duo category. This shattered the category dominance record held by The Statler Brothers, who won Vocal Group nine times.

They’ve been a core act at radio for eighteen years, and were the first duo or group in the history of country music to sell six million copies of a studio album, a feat they achieved with their debut album Brand New Man. Their cumulative sales are approaching 25 million.

Ten Essential Tracks:

“Brand New Man”
from the 1991 album Brand New Man

The sheer energy of their debut single made them an instant hit at radio. Truth is, this song could come out today and still sound fresh.

“Neon Moon”
from the 1991 album Brand New Man

Ronnie Dunn is one of the genre’s finest male vocalists, especially when he tears into a beer-sipping ballad.

“Boot Scootin’ Boogie”
from the 1991 album Brand New Man

They’d make many songs that honky-tonked more, but never one that did so in such an effortlessly charming way.

“She Used To Be Mine”
from the 1993 album Hard Workin’ Man

The title track of their second album earned them a Grammy, but the album’s real treasure was this killer ballad that showcased Dunn’s aching vocal.

“You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone”
from the 1994 album Waitin’ On Sundown

One of their best singles ever features Kix Brooks on lead, an unfortunate rarity among their radio hits.

“My Maria”
from the 1996 album Borderline

Leave it to Ronnie Dunn to make a seventies AM radio classic sound like little more than a demo for his definitive recording.

“How Long Gone”
from the 1998 album If You See Her

A simple, pleasing radio hit that’s heavy on hook and melody.

“The Long Goodbye”
from the 2001 album Steers & Stripes

A fully believable break-up song that’s all about drifting apart.

“Red Dirt Road”
from the 2003 album Red Dirt Road

A nostalgic trip down a very memorable lane.

“It’s Getting Better All the Time”
from the 2004 album The Greatest Hits Collection II

A “Backside of Thirty”-league portrait of a broken man.

Two Hidden Treasures:

“My Heart is Lost To You”
from the 2001 album Steers & Stripes

Despite riding a major comeback, this bilingual track got lost in the shuffle. It went top five but not recurrent, which is a shame, since it’s one of their most enchanting tracks.

“God Must Be Busy”
from the 2007 album Cowboy Town

“Believe” got all the love, but if you’re looking for a deeper exploration of faith and doubt, this is the way to go.


  1. I used to hate B&D until “Ain’t Nothin’ Bout You.” and now like (stand) the older stuff. Still that and “Believe” would be on any Starter kit of mine…

  2. Excellent list. You hit all of their high points. Of course, you could have twice as many songs on this list and still not have any duds. Personally, I would have dropped “It’s Getting Better All the Time” and replaced it with “Building Bridges”. I know it wasn’t a career changing record for them or anything, just a personal favorite of mine. Also, Kix did front two more of their singles that I really enjoyed (“Lost and Found” & “Why Would I Say Goodbye”.

  3. Every River is a song I would have love to have seen made the list here and I would have liked to seen If You See Her with Reba McEntire on it and maybe a nod to She’s Not the Cheating Kind, but still not bad for a Brooks & Dunn must listen to list.

  4. Loved “Only in America” but every time I hear it I think of the video with the WTC’s Twin Towers standing. Also loved their cover of the old Roger Miller song, “Husbands and Wives”. “How Long Gone” is another favorite.

  5. The cover of Husbands and Wives was excellent. Great song, great job on it.
    I wouldn’t exactly say they are going out on top, but close to it. And maybe Ronnie Dunn will get some vocal awards someday, which he always missed by being part of a duo (stupid).

  6. Yep, this list is pretty much exactly what I have in my personal B&D collection. I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes “My Heart Is Lost To You”!

    Somehow, I’ve never cared for the cover of “Husbands and Wives.” Great song, and I love Ronnie Dunn as a vocalist, but the combination never clicked for me. I think maybe he has too much power for a song like that – Alan Jackson would’ve been a better fit for me.

  7. I agree, Dan. Their version of “Husbands and Wives” doesn’t really work for me either for the same reason that you outline. Great song though.

    I like almost everything that you have on this list, Kevin, including. There are a few more that I’d add as my personal favorites, including “She’s Not the Cheatin’ Kind” and “Why Would I Say Goodbye,” along with a smattering of songs from this decade.

    I think they’ve waited a little too long to have gone out on top, as their recent output has been pretty weak, but it’s still sad to see the brand name discontinued in a way.

  8. “We’ll Burn That Bridge”
    “My Next Broken Heart”
    “I’ll Never Forgive My Heart”
    “My Heart is Lost to You”

    Great songs; pity to rarely hear them on the radio anymore.

  9. Decent list. I shy away from the campy commercial songs of B&D like “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” however they do sound good in concert.
    “God Must Be Busy”!!! This is a horrible, trite song! Even Ronnie Dunn makes fun of it by participating in the Cledus Judd spoof, “Garth Must Be Busy”!
    My Hidden Treasures:
    “Holy War” from Red Dirt Road
    “Independent Trucker” from Greatest Hits

  10. I’ve always liked the sound of “Holy War”, though I’ve never completely grasped the meaning of it enough to completely embrace it, thematically.

  11. Independent Trucker and Good Day To Be Me from Red Dirt Road is a good one too. I really like the ones kix writes, I have his solo album too.

  12. Very solid list, Kevin. “Brand New Man” is a song I never get tired of listening to even after all these years. “She Used To Be Mine” “Neon Moon,” and “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” are also at the top for me. My personal kit would also include “My Next Broken Heart,” “Lost And Found,” “She’s Not The Cheatin’ Kind,” “Whiskey Under The Bridge,” “I’ll Never Forgive My Heart,” “A Man This Lonely,” and “Honky Tonk Truth.”

    I agree with who listed “Every River.” That was my favorite single from Steers And Stripes. I’d also say that “It’s Getting Better All The Time” was the last single of theirs I really enjoyed.

    I wish they had continued to release singles featuring Kix Brooks on lead. That would have at least kept things more diverse and interesting.

  13. I’d add to the hidden treasures “Mexican Minutes” from the Hard Workin’ Man cd. Believe it or not I thought Kix Brooks actually sounded half-decent on that track. It was my favorite from that set, in fact.

  14. I am disappointed that Brooks and Dunn are splitting up but I guess all good things come to an end. They are probably doing it right by going out STILL ON TOP. I only wish I could have had Ronnie Dunn cut one of my songs located on or It’s a tough business and I wish them well in retirement. A road well travelled! Good luck men. You have influenced many, many, new artists.

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