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Forget depth, just kick up your heels

September 28, 2007|Randy Lewis

Brooks & Dunn

"Cowboy Town" (Arista Nashville)


There's everything to suggest the hits will keep on coming for Brooks & Dunn on the platinum-minded duo's latest album, chock-full as it is of singalong choruses, blazing guitars and chirpy harmonies. There's also little hint of anything of substance lurking beneath the gleaming surfaces of the album's dozen tracks.

"Cowboy Town" (in stores Tuesday) is a pretty static place, at least as conceived and executed by Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, who wrote or co-wrote eight of the songs. Like a western movie set, everything is pretty much as you see it, and often fun to look at. Just don't go peeking behind the facades, however atmospheric they may appear.

For Brooks & Dunn, it's all about entertainment; people in these songs don't transform, grow or understand anything new about themselves or others by way of their life experiences. They are what they've always been, happy to say so, no apologies necessary. That creates little thematic tension and less ambiguity, reducing the effectiveness of their safely rowdy music to the visceral appeal of the individual songs.

On that count, "Put a Girl in It" offers a great guitar riff worthy of the Stones, minus the British group's lasciviousness. "Tequila" is a drinking song -- you were expecting something less than completely obvious? -- that cruises along on a bouncy Tex-Mex groove. "Drunk on Love" sounds as if it were designed strictly for jukebox play at the local honky-tonk.

"God Must Be Busy," the closing track, is their big stab at Meaning, but there's nothing behind the curtain here either, just the age-old "Why do bad things happen to good people?" conundrum. But it'll make for a good slow dance.

-- Randy Lewis

Albums are rated on a scale of four stars (excellent), three stars (good), two stars (fair) and one star (poor). Albums reviewed have been released except as indicated.

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