Greatest Hits Collection II by Brooks & Dunn

Brooks & Dunn's second greatest-hits album is most remarkable for the story it doesn't tell.

After their first Greatest Hits Collection seven years ago, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn saw their fortunes fall in the late 1990s, only to come roaring back with a new-millennium revival that defied doubters and reestablished them as country's dominant duo. But Greatest Hits Collection II erases that dry spell with a vengeance.

Among these hits, near-misses and new tracks, you'll find absolutely nothing from 1999's Tight Rope, the pair's acknowledged low point - not even the Top 5 "You'll Always Be Loved By Me." You'd never know Kix and Ronnie made any music between 1998 and 2001, when they blasted back to relevancy with the smash "Ain't Nothing 'Bout You." And given that Ronnie sings almost every song here, you might not know how much energy and creativity Kix brings to Brooks & Dunn, either.

If Collection II is a bad history lesson, it sure is a good listen - a random-play jukebox that busts out some of country radio's best moments of recent years. If You See Her is best represented here (five tracks come from that 1998 album), but the cuts from 2001's Steers & Stripes and last year's career-best Red Dirt Road make the strongest arguments for Brooks & Dunn's continuing vitality, growth and maturity. Three new cuts, including the hit "That's What It's All About," keep the hot streak going without expanding their sound in any new directions.

But that's OK - after all, who could have predicted that in 2004, Brooks & Dunn would be in the best commercial and artistic shape of their career? Anyone who thinks they won't be around for Greatest Hits Collection III might want to think again.

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