Brooks & Dunn’s debut album BRAND NEW MAN spent over 190 weeks on the Top Country Albums chart. Released in 1991, it gave birth to four consecutive #1 singles on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks charts. In 1992, Brooks & Dunn won ‘Duo of the Year’ from the Country Music Association. In 1993 the duo released their second album, HARD WORKIN’ MAN (Arista). It peaked at #2 on the U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums chart and at #1 on the Canadian RPM Country Albums chart. The album, produced by Don Cook and Scott Hendricks, was also nominated for a Grammy for ‘Best Country Album’.
The title track, ‘Hard Workin’ Man’, is one of four songs penned solely by Ronnie Dunn on this project. It was the album’s first single, peaking at #4 on the Country charts. It also won a Grammy Award for ‘Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal’. It’s an energetic country rocker with lyrics that are very relatable: “Got everything I own by the sweat of my brow/From my four-wheel drive to my cowboy boots/I owe it all to my blue collar roots/I feel like I’m workin’ overtime on a runaway train/I’ve got to bust loose from this ball and chain.../Come Friday night, I like to party hard/I carry on with the Cadillac cuties/Spend my whole week’s pay on some weekend beauty”. ‘We’ll Burn that Bridge’ is heavy on the percussion and finds a guy trying to woo a gal: “Come on let your hair down/We’ll have us a time/He had his chance with you/Now all I want is mine/Give me half an hour or just a dance or two/And you’ll forget old what’s his name and how he walked out on you/We’ll put out your old flame, we’ll build a bigger fire/I’ll pick up where he let you down and take you so much higher”. Kent M. Robbins and Jim Messina wrote ‘Mexican Minutes’, a calming ballad, with Kix singing lead. Mark Casstevens plays mandolin and Jimmy Gunn plays cabasa on this carefree song: “We’re dropping our worries/Picking up Espanol/Down here the sunsets are red, the tequila is gold/Life is sublime here on Mexican time/They’ve got something we need to learn/If we don’t show for a while/Don’t be concerned”.
Dan McBride plays electric guitar on ‘Heartbroke out of my Mind’, a country and western number. It includes these sad lyrics: “Well I’m flyin’ high and feelin’ low/Drinkin’ hard and dancin’ slow/I’m gonna shine my buckle to George Jones/Heartaches are hot on my heels/Bartender the race is on.../I’m heartbroke out of my mind/Pardon me boys if I get a little out of line/It’s just temporary insanity/Till I get over what she did to me/I’ll be heartbroke out of my mind”. ‘She Used to be Mine’ was a #1 hit for the duo. It’s a country ballad of regret: “I did her so wrong for so long/Turned my back on her love/Now she’s long gone/I did my part to break her heart/She walked out on me and tore my world apart/She used to be mine, oh she used to be mine”.
Bill LaBounty and Steve O’Brien wrote the fun, upbeat country song ‘Rock My World (Little Country Girl)’. John Barlow Jarvis plays organ and the Arista Tabernacle Choir help with backing vocals. Here are some of the lyrics: “She’s got a T-Top Camaro with a scoop on the hood/And two big speakers blasting Johnny B. Goode/Looking so sweet it oughta be a crime/She plays with my heart and messes with my mind/Acts like Madonna but she listens to Merle/Rock my world little Country girl.../Rock my world, drag me out on the floor/Dance with me till I can’t dance anymore/One-step, two-step, get in a line/I gotta find a way to make you mine”. ‘That Ain’t No Way to Go’ reached #1 and includes these sorrowful words: “I’m getting nowhere/I’m tired of thinking/Guess I’ll do a little wishful drinking/Make a whiskey wish upon a star/Train whistle blowing down the track/Lonesome sound says she ain’t coming back/It’s such a cold blow from out of the dark”.
Kix Brooks and Ed Hunnicutt wrote ‘Texas Women (Don`t Stay Lonely Long)’. It is a pleasant country and western song that reflects on a gal a guy left: “Well, I’ll bet by the time I get to Tulsa/She’ll be pullin’ on them tight blue jeans and she’ll go down to Cowboy’s, buy herself a cold one/And on a Friday night in Dallas, she’s a cowboy’s dream/Something tells me she’ll sit out the first one/And then they’ll play George Strait and she’ll be gone/Cause heaven knows that girl was born to two-step/And Texas women don’t stay lonely long”. ‘Our Time is Coming’ is an adult contemporary track that waxes spiritual: “Times are hard and the money’s tight/Day to day we fight that fight/Nothing new, it’s the same old grind/Uphill all the way/Boss man says forget the raise/Preacher says to keep the faith/Good things come to those who wait/Tomorrow’s another day/And our time is coming/When or where the good Lord only knows/Yeah, our time is coming/When this road we’re on will turn to a street of gold”.
‘I Can’t Put out this Fire’ is a country ballad. It comes from the perspective of a man who is having trouble moving on: “I wish that I could close my eyes without dreaming of you/I know you said it’s over/But this old heart’s still burning with desire/So tell me one more time/You don’t love me anymore/You gotta help me girl/I can’t put out this fire”. Brian Tankersley co-produced ‘Boot Scootin’ Boogie (Club Mix)’. It is a lively pop/country version almost double the length of the original song on BRAND NEW MAN. It’s all about having a good time: “Out in the country/Past the city limits sign/Well there’s a honky tonk near the county line/The joint starts jumpin’ every night/When the sun goes down/They got whiskey, women, music, and smoke/It’s where all the cowboy folk go/To boot scootin’ boogie”.
HARD WORKIN’ MAN proved that Brooks & Dunn weren’t just a one album wonder. On this second album Ronnie Dunn sings lead on seven songs, while Kix Brooks does so on four. Not only is there a good mix of fast and slow songs, but there is a good balance of songs about heartache and songs about enjoying love and life in a carefree manner. I think my favourite song is ‘Our Time is Coming’ which looks ahead to a time when things will get better for a couple. Musicians used on the album include: Glenn Worf (bass) and Rob Hajacos (fiddle). I’m rating HARD WORKIN’ MAN 88%. For more info visit: www.brooksanddunn.wordpress.com.