The first two single releases are remarkable songs, and rare gems in terms of country music. It’s not often that you hear a country artist deliver as visionary a message of acceptance and compassion as “Bleed Red,” one of the album’s few songs not composed by Dunn. But he convincingly sings such profound lyrics as “If we’re fighting, we’re both losing/ We’re just wasting our time/ Because my scars, they are your scars /And your world is mine.”
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for the release of the second single from Ronnie Dunn, “Cost of Livin’,” a song the singer said he had written (actually he co-wrote it with Phillip Coleman), largely inspired by the son of his guitarist, identified only as “Lou.” It’s a story of pride and desperation, taken from today’s tragic headlines, of a young veteran’s resolute appeal to a prospective employer. He’s the kind of man anyone would want to hire for his integrity and work ethic, but his is just a face in a long line of faces seeking a handful of jobs. Dunn’s delivery, accompanied only by Lou’s acoustic guitar was absolutely chilling, a powerful moment that is precious in any kind of music.
Since this is his first solo tour since his split with Kix, most every song that wasn’t from the Brooks and Dunn arsenal was from his new CD. “Let the Cowboy Rock,” a ZZ Top-style rocker, accompanied by flickering spotlights and belching smoke cannons, was a wild ride. And “How Far to Waco,” a Mexican-style road song with sampled horn riffs, was plenty spicy, although prerecorded instruments used to be cheating in country music. If you couldn’t discern the tall Texan’s self-image from the words of his songs, all you had to do is check out the new tattoo with the word “cowboy” running the length of his forearm.
As for the favorites, you had to wonder why the electric guitar intro to “Play Something Country” sounded like Buckethead had arrived early. But Dunn’s versatility shined as he ranged from the touching torch song “It’s Getting Better All The Time,” accompanied by a soulful piano, to the dancehall staple “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,“ a song the lanky 58-year-old confessed he wrote “about the time Taylor Swift was being born.”
Although the crowd fell a little short of the biggest mobs this year at Chevy Court, you couldn’t shake the feeling that if Dunn’s new songs and his vocal staying power are any indication, it won’t be long until he’s back playing the Grandstand, next time solo.
Nailed it: Everybody was wearing sunglasses except the keyboardist during the Sept. 2 Chevy Court matinee with country star David Nail and his four-piece band, who managed to blast through an hour-long set despite the withering heat. It was a quick afternoon set of no-frills, straight-ahead country rock, and Nail, sporting a Don Johnson stubble, managed to look cool even though he was wiping his sweaty brow after every number. The Nashville cat also told a story about early perceptions in his career that he “talked country but didn’t sing it” (the 32-year-old was born and bred in Missouri) but his final song was a cover of Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me,” thus further blurring the boundaries between country and rock.