Brooks & Dunn’s fourth studio album was BORDERLINE (1996, Arista). It was produced by Don Cook, Kix Brooks, and Ronnie Dunn. Five songs from it hit the Hot Country Songs charts. In 1996 Brooks & Dunn won the ‘Entertainer of the Year’ award from both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music. In 1997 they’d co-headline a tour with Reba McEntire.
The opening song on the album is ‘My Maria’. It is a cover of a pop tune first recorded by B.W. Stevenson. He co-wrote it with Daniel Moore. Brooks & Dunn’s Caribbean music influenced version of the song here, was the Top Country Song of 1996 according to Billboard. It won a Grammy for ‘Best Country Performance by a Group or Duo’. On this ode to a lady, Ronnie breaks into his falsetto: “My Maria, there were some blue and sorrow times/Just my thoughts about you bring back my peace of mind/Gypsy lady, you’re a miracle work for me/You set my soul free like a ship sailing on the sea”. Ronnie co-wrote the #1 hit ‘A Man This Lonely’ with Tommy Lee James. It is a country ballad of longing: “A man this lonely, a man this blue/A man whose world’s been torn in two/Needs somebody with a heart that’s true/A man this lonely needs a woman like you/Two arms this empty need someone to hold/A man this lost needs somewhere to go/When the nights go on forever and the days do too/Oh, a man this lonely needs a woman like you”. ‘Why Would I Say Goodbye’ finds Kix Brooks singing lead and includes these heartfelt words: “Just drove around all night in my car/Now I’m not sure where to start to tell you that I’m sorry/I just want to hold you/I don’t want to hurt you/I don’t want to leave/I just want to be with you/And after living alone/Lost for so long/Finally found the love of my life/Oh, why would I say goodbye?”
‘Mama Don’t Get Dressed Up For Nothing’ is a fun country/rock story song: “She said ‘Hey cowboy, get off that couch/Yeah, the party’s on you and we’re goin’ out/I got my low cut dress and my knee high boots/I’m like money to burn and nothing to lose/You’re the man of the house, you better think of something/Cause mama don’t get dressed up for nothing’/She said ‘I been cooped up in this house all week/It’s time to pick it up and move it down to party street’/She said ‘Saddle up Hoss, it’s your lucky day and I’m a she cat tiger comin’ out of the cage’”. Terry McBride and Monty Powell wrote the pretty country ballad ‘I Am That Man’. Admittedly the lyrics aren’t really that original: “I’m gonna show you what love can be/My job won’t be done until you believe/I am that man you’re trying to find/I am that man you had in mind/And I’ll give you all my love/Till you understand/I won’t give up/Cause I know I am that man”.
Kix Brooks and Chris Waters wrote ‘More than a Margarita’. It has a warm, tropical feel to it, but is about heartache: “I started my day with Corona/Hopin’ it’d help me get over the night that you left/But it didn’t help/So I moved on to tequila/Built a pyramid up to the ceiling ten glasses high/But I can still hear you sayin’ goodbye/It’s gonna take more than a margarita/More than a shooter to blow your memory away/I still need ya/Yeah, I’m hurtin’ without you/Even when I’m feelin’ no pain”. ‘Redneck Rhythm & Blues’ is an upbeat honky tonk song that blue collar workers will relate to: “Oh, I’m a thirsty man/Five hot long miles to the waterin’ hole/I got the pedal to the metal singin’ go cat go/Aw a cool one is a cure for the redneck rhythm and blues/Life ain’t all hard knocks, a quarter in the jukebox/Turn it on and set ‘em up Joe/Songs about a workin’ man blarin’ from a bandstand is music to a country boy’s soul/Call me the underdog of overtime/I stay broke all the time/Got to pay the eight to five dues/Well, I’m hillbilly hardcore/Son, I’m a sucker for the redneck rhythm and blues”.
Buddy and Julie Miller wrote ‘My Love Will Follow You’. Buddy recorded it on his 1995 album YOUR LOVE AND OTHER LIES. It’s a terrific folk/country track of devotion: “Take your suitcase and take your heart/Take a train to the dark/My love will follow you (2X)/You can try to lose yourself downtown/You can burn all your bridges down/My love will follow you/Oh, my love will follow you”. ‘One Heartache at a Time’ is an old-school country and western number that is addressed to a gal: “Just my luck/You picked tonight to set your sights on me/Darling can’t you see the shape I’m in/I can’t take but just one heartache at a time/I’ve gotta wait till I’ve had a chance to drink her off my mind/Well, I’ll save some tears and meet you here/Somewhere down the line/I can’t take but just one heartache/I can’t take but just one heartache at a time”.
‘Tequila Town’ is a sad song: “Left her standing in a tear-stained dress/I cursed the day that I confessed/Wayward sins of a mortal man/Watched the ring come off her hand/Looking back on all I’ve lost/Price I’ve paid ain’t worth the cost”. Ronnie Dunn wrote the album’s fast-paced closer, ‘White Line Casanova’. It’s a fun story song: “I was a white line Casanova/A love bandit of the roads/I got the one I can’t get over/I miss her more with every load/I got these eighteen wheels/Singin’ home sweet home/I been too long gone/Oh, I’m comin’ home to ya”.
BORDERLINE is the strongest, most mature sounding project out of Brooks & Dunn’s first four. Ronnie sings the lead on six songs, while Kix does so on five. By far the majority of the songs fall into the category of ‘songs of romantic longing’, a theme common in country music. In addition, here you will find a song of remorse and three fun, party-type songs. The skilled players used on the album include: Dennis Burnside (keyboards, piano, and B-3 organ), Bruce C. Bouton (pedal steel and slide guitar), and Rob Hajacos (fiddle and assorted hoedown tools). John Wesley Ryles and Dennis Wilson are two of the background vocalists. I’m rating BORDERLINE 95%. For more info visit: www.brooksanddunn.wordpress.com.