Ronnie Dunn by Ronnie Dunn

After 20-plus years as the primary singer for duo Brooks & Dunn, Ronnie Dunn isn’t ready to hang up his spurs just yet. His first post-B&D solo single, “Bleed Red,” debuted in the 30s on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, but artistically, it’s a bland, play-it-safe release, saved only by Ronnie’s impeccable vocal performance.

“Let the Cowboy Rock” suffers a similar fate, with an overproduced din of guitar tones. Ronnie fares better elsewhere with “Once,” which extols a kind of love found only once in a lifetime. Though the tune veers more toward adult contemporary fare than his Brooks & Dunn material, the song’s rhythmic drive and Ronnie’s muscular voice make for a fine match.

On the smoldering “I Don’t Dance,” Ronnie sings of staying faithful to his true love amid the temptations of life on the road. A mariachi band guests on “How Far to Waco,” complementing the track with bright, precise accompaniment. “Cost of Livin’” is a gem, a sobering look at the fate of returning American soldiers in a down economy who now fight a different set of dire circumstances.

With this vocal showcase, Ronnie may finally garner a long-overdue best male country vocalist award.

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