This article contains opinion.
Who said old dogs can’t learn new tricks?
Well, the ‘90s and early ‘00s country music duo Brooks & Dunn must’ve missed the memo.
Yes, that’s right. Brooks & Dunn are back with their 11th studio album.
The new album, titled “Reboot,” features 12 re-recorded versions of some of the duo’s biggest hits, all recorded with musicians from today’s modern era of country music.
The group, comprised of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, was created in 1991 when it signed with Arista Nashville, and before “Reboot,” it had not released an album in almost a dozen years (“Cowboy Town,” 2007).
Now, more than a decade since their glory days, the long-lost cowboys return to attempt to appeal to both the old-school and the new-aged, more pop-inspired country music fans out there through an album filled with hits and a few misses in a time when country music truly lacks collaboration.
And their quest to encompass both styles of country music begins on track one, “Brand New Man,” with none other than Luke Combs.
Combs, who’s made a name for himself on fast-paced, heartfelt tracks like “When It Rains It Pours” and “Hurricane,” feels right at home on this track. Even with the nostalgia that comes with the classic tune, there comes a song that feels like it was originally written for the North Carolina native.
Brett Young, another upcoming country star of today, joins Brooks & Dunn on track No. 2, “Ain’t Nothing About You,” on which Young attempts to bring some bluesy soul to the track that made it to the No. 1 country song of 2001.
Young’s pop-inspired intro to the song meets the classic, Southern-sounding vocals of Dunn at a comfortable place, possibly making it the most appealing song on the album and likely to be a country top-40 hit.
The duo’s ability to transform these all-time favorites into country music that sounds specifically designed for each of the featuring artists quickly comes to center stage when now-six-time Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves takes over with a ballad on “Neon Moon.”
The track sounds like something right off her award-winning 2018 album, “Golden Hour,” while still giving an old time feel that only Brooks & Dunn can provide.
Intertwined with the high-profile artists like Musgraves are lesser-known musicians. On “Lost and Found,” listeners are introduced to Kentucky native Tyler Booth.
Booth makes the most of his time on the track, sometimes sounding so traditional that you might mistake his vocals for those of Brooks or Dunn.
Other highpoints include when Thomas Rhett makes an appearance on the album in “My Maria” that may be catchy enough to make a cover of a cover that was a No. 1 hit one once more.
And Cody Johnson teams up with the guys to create one of the rawest sounding covers of “Red Dirt Road” that you’ll probably ever hear.
And while there are tracks that allow artists to do what they’re best at, such as Jon Pardi on “My Next Broken Heart” and Ashley McBryde with “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” some listeners may wonder about the duo’s decision-making process when picking some of the artists to collaborate with.
Nothing against groups like LANCO (appearing on “Mama Don’t Get Dressed Up for Nothing”) and Midland (appearing on “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”), but there may have been more natural fits for the album like Chris Stapleton or Rodney Atkins.
But nonetheless, the duo ends the album with what probably turns out to be the most moving track on the album, “Believe” with Kane Brown.
Brown absolutely owns “Believe,” the story of learning about what comes after death from an old friend. And what makes the track so special is the humility Brown offers.
On his 2016 debut album, Brown gives thanks to one of his own mentors, Old Mr. Jackson, on the opening track “Hometown.” So, when he tells the story of Old Mr. Ridley in “Believe,” it makes it feel all the more authentic.
Even with a few shortcomings on “Reboot,” Brooks & Dunn accomplished everything they set out to do and more.
Bringing more collaboration to today’s country music while attempting to bridge generations was not an easy task. But they did it on “Reboot.”