Brooks & Dunn is going through one of those late career resurgences that artists whose music withstands the test of time tend to enjoy about 25 to 30 years after they first came to prominence. Recently announced as one of the 2019 inductees to the Country Music Hall of Fame, they’re not just resting on their laurels and soaking up the praise, they’ve been making the best of the renewed interest by playing more together live, and recently releasing the Reboot album, which saw the duo reprise some of their biggest hits with a lot of today’s mainstream country stars. The album debuted at #1 on the country charts, and even launched a minor radio hit via their remake of “Brand New Man” with Luke Combs—the duo’s first Top 30 showing on the charts in a decade.
But those hoping this might be the precursor to new music from Brooks & Dunn may want to temper their enthusiasm just a little bit. While performing last weekend at the Taste of Country Music Festival up in New York State, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn were asked about the prospects of new music, and though they both seemed open to the idea of writing new material, they let it be known they were a little leery about going through the album making process.
“I don’t know,” Ronnie Dunn responded. “I don’t know how that works these days. We know how to make records, write songs. But I don’t know how you work the system to get it heard anymore.”
A few years ago, Ronnie Dunn tried to start his own pseudo musical revolution by starting a record label and challenging the conventional wisdom of Nashville and the traditional radio model, though the results were mixed. Dunn then signed to the now defunct NASH Icon record label, which was a partnership between Big Machine Records and Cumulus Media that to launch a massive radio network that would feature more traditional and older artists. Amid the Cumulus bankruptcy, the NASH Icon idea has been mostly place on the back burner, which probably doesn’t help with Dunn’s dismay at the business.
“We’re not a young act trying to get going. There’s a system for that,” Kix Brooks adds. “For us, it’s not like we never talk about writing a song. ‘Hey, I got an idea,’ you know, kicking stuff around like we always have, and if we screwed up and wrote some songs we’d probably record them and put them out.”
“Not to sound cocky, but we can write songs as good as we ever could I think,” added Ronnie Dunn. “It’s just going through the political process of what you have to do like Kix said to make it happen. I don’t know that we have the cast, or the want to. It’s called work.”
Perhaps both men, now in their 60’s, are just fine playing some shows, and keeping the legacy they’ve already forged with their music alive. But you can’t fault Brooks & Dunn fans for hoping the musical output from arguably country music’s most successful duo in history isn’t done yet.