With their reluctance to tour overseas and their determined focus on American...
Sue Keogh 2004
After an unprecedented twelve year stint, affable CMA Awards host Vince Gill was put out to grass in 2004 and Brooks & Dunn were made masters of ceremony at country music's biggest night. They should be very comfortable up there on stage at the Opry House in Nashville, having collected gongs for Single, Song, Album, Video and Entertainer over the years, and having won the Vocal Duo Of The Year Award every year since 1992 (with the exception of that Black Wednesday in 2000 when Montgomery Gentry cheekily stole their crown.)
So what better time than now to draw attention to their back catalogue with a new compilation? With sales of 27 million they're not just the most popular duo in country music, but across all genres they are second in sales only to Simon and Garfunkel. However, with their reluctance to tour overseas and their determined focus on American clichés of hard workin' truckers and goodtime gals, their high energy honky tonk hasn't travelled well and they are pretty much unheard of outside the United States.
It's a shame because they have consistently offered some of the most fiery and delightfully rowdy country music from the last decade or so. It's all here, from early hits like "Brand New Man", "Neon Moon" and line dancers' favourite "Boot Scootin' Boogie" to more recent tracks like the Ronan Keating co-written "The Long Goodbye", the stars 'n' stripes worship of "Only In America" and "Red Dirt Road", and Reba McEntire's gloriously twisted vowels in their hit duet "If You See Him/ If You See Her".
Although rumoured to suffer rather than enjoy each other's company off stage, when performing they make a perfect pairing. Kix Brooks, the dark-haired, behatted one from Louisiana is intense and soulful, whilst ginger Texan Ronnie Dunn runs around being the perfect showman, the driving force behind all the red, white and blue glitter cannons and fireworks at the spectacular live shows that break box office records every time they go on tour.
In a year in which they have already released The Greatest Hits Collection, Volume Two - which, paired with the first volume, gives you all the songs included here - this album needs something extra to make it feel special. A new single perhaps? Or maybe some DVD concert footage so us poor souls across the pond can get a taste of the Brooks & Dunn live experience without having to fly across the Atlantic? Sadly not. Nevertheless, for folk new to Brooks & Dunn, The Very Best Of will serve as an excellent introduction to their music.