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Brooks & Dunn - Hillbilly Deluxe
Album review by Cheryl Harvey Hill

If you think Hillbilly Deluxe is an oxymoron than it is clear that you haven't listened to the newest album from one of country music's most successful duo's; Leon Eric (Kix) Brooks and Ronnie Gene Dunn - better known as Brooks and Dunn.

The dictionary defines hillbilly as a person from the backwoods or a remote mountain area with an association to country or country music, or a disparaging term for an unsophisticated person. Deluxe is defined by Webster as an adjective meaning choice, rich, first class, special and superior in quality. As far as I know, Brooks and Dunn aren't from the backwoods, or any remote mountain area, and from what we've seen over the years they aren't lacking in sophistication either so apart from that obvious misnomer, I think you will agree that Hillbilly Deluxe is the perfect album title for the thirteen songs on their newest CD.

According to information on their website, soul searching led them to seek out a more "organic" kind of country. Well, I for one am all in favor of a macrobiotic diet and a firm believer that natural is almost always better. In my opinion, Brooks and Dunn have proven that time and time again; they may feel that they strayed a bit from their "raisin'" but at least they have managed to stir the masses, break down barriers and corner the market on "vocal duo of the year" and they did it all without outrageous videos containing little people, blow-up dolls, and rapping (notwithstanding quite handsome) cowboys. The bar set by Brooks and Dunn was locked in place sans gimmicks and was created strictly by their talent quotient; with their new album, the bar, unbelievably, is about to be raised once again.

"Play Something Country," the first cut on Hillbilly Deluxe, sets the tone for the rest of the album and Dunn credits this song as the inspiration for this project. “Writing that made me want to go back to what we do, where we come from... you know, the root of this sound ‘cause it’s always at the source where it’s most intense" he says, "...that hardcore country thing is something we can wear comfortably ‘cause we know it."

I had a couple of favorites on this album but if I had to name just one, I would probably select "Believe," but then, it is hard to not mention the delightful cover of "Building Bridges," especially with Sheryl Crow and Vince Gill joining in to sing harmony on the chorus. The instrumental licks on this track are nothing to scoff at either; in fact, the instrumentals on the entire album are perfection. "I May Never Get Over You" was another favorite for me and when the last song, "Again," finished ... well, the whole album was like flashbacks to the best and the worst of life and I didn't want it to end. The music, the lyrics, the vocals were, in a word, cathartic.

*28 million albums, Four Entertainer of the Year and shattered Duo of the Year records for the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music Awards, three Neon Circuses, the front of the Corn Flakes box, the Olympics and a Presidential inauguration later, the larger-than-life songwriter/guitarists decided the ultimate reality is to take everything they’ve learned and go back. And so there’s Hillbilly Deluxe, an album that revisits the people, places, music and moments that brought them to Nashville in the first place. *From their website

Brooks and Dunn credit the guidance of Tony Brown for generating "lean performances that gained their power from the centrifugal force of musical momentum." As a journalist and album reviewer, I do wish I had said that; it is visually poetic and perfectly descriptive of this album. Kudos to all who participated in this project and a standing ovation for the folks who did the PR; I couldn't have said it better myself.


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Real People Reviews

I absolutely love this album! Every time I think Brooks & Dunn have nailed it, the next one is even better. This album taps into every emotion. The vocals (particularly Ronnie Dunn's) are superb. I can't take this out of my CD player! 

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