Review – Ronnie Dunn’s “Ain’t No Trucks In Texas”

Ronnie Dunn Ain't No Trucks In Texas

When it comes to Ronnie Dunn’s career, it’s been a tale of two halves. In the first half, it was quite a wild and successful ride for Dunn. He was one half of one of the most iconic duos in country music history in Brooks & Dunn. Dunn and Kix Brooks racked up multiple #1 hits, platinum albums and numerous awards. Their mark on country music is no doubt impactful and will be remembered for years to come. In 2010, the group broke up and thus began Dunn’s second half of his career as a solo artist. He released a self-titled album in 2011, his first as a solo artist. It reached #1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and in my view was a pretty solid album. The standout from it was “Cost of Livin’,” a song about a military veteran trying to find employment. In June 2012, Arista Nashville dropped him from his label and released an album last year under this own label, titled Peace, Love And Country Music. I did not get a chance to review this album, but I did listen to it and I offered some commentary on it last year when I wrote a response to Dunn’s Facebook post on older country artists. I thought the albums was a rocky listen and tried too hard to appeal to mainstream and quality at the same time. It didn’t have a clear direction at all.

Despite not really being a fan of that album (save a couple of songs), I have admired Ronnie Dunn’s tenacity and determination in recent years of making country music the right way and fighting for older artists. If you follow him on Facebook, he always has something on his mind and interacts with his fans all of the time. He truly cares about the business, his fans and the state of country music. Dunn has also endorsed several up and coming artists, including Sturgill Simpson. The great news for Dunn is his persistence paid off, as Scott Borchetta officially announced he signed him to his new label NASH Icon in January 2015, a label for older country artists still active in making music. For Dunn this was the opportunity he appeared to be seeking and his chance to continue to make an impact on the genre with his music. A few weeks back he released his first music through NASH Icon, the first single from a new upcoming album, titled “Ain’t No Trucks In Texas.”

It’s very much a Ronnie Dunn song, yet it’s also something that could appeal to radio. It has balance. I think one of the problems with Dunn releasing music through his own label was that there weren’t enough people to tell him no or suggest something different with his music. In other words, making music with a major label means there are more gatekeepers to help filter and cultivate the sound of the music. Dunn is a talented artist without a doubt, but even great talents need people around them to help hone in their sound and find the best fit. They’ve done it with “Ain’t No Trucks In Texas.” The song itself is about a bitter man who’s in a state of denial after a breakup. The denial runs so deep for him that he’s denying obvious things such as football in the south and bourbon in Kentucky. While these clichés that will annoy some people, to me it drives home the emotion of the song perfectly. It frames the mindset of the bitter, heartbroken man very well. Kudos to the writers of the song, Wendell Mobley, Tony Martin and Neil Thrasher. The production and instrumentation undoubtedly has some mainstream country tinges to it, but the core is without a doubt country. Like I said, this song does a great job balancing between quality and radio, the biggest problem Dunn had with his last album.

This isn’t the best song we’ve ever gotten from Ronnie Dunn, but it’s pretty solid nonetheless. This is the kind of song Dunn needed to kick off his start with Nash Icon. I think Dunn’s relationship with the label is an ideal situation for both sides and they could do a lot of good together. I’m looking forward to giving Dunn’s new album a listen if this single is an indicator of the direction it takes. “Ain’t No Trucks In Texas” is one of the better singles I’ve heard from mainstream country in 2015.

Grade: 8/10

Review – Josh Turner’s “Lay Low”

The return of Josh Turner to radio is a refreshing one. It’s been two years since we’ve last heard a new single from Turner, but he’s back with a new single now. He also has a new album coming soon, though no release date has been announced. One of his last singles he put out, “Time Is Love,” reached #2 on the Billboard Hot Country Chart. The reason I say his return is refreshing is because Turner always stays true to himself, making traditional sounding country music that still sounds modern in today’s world of country music. Turner reiterated his stance on making the music he wants to make in an interview with Rolling Stone last week:

“The basic standards I’ve always held for my music still apply to this record, but I’ve definitely taken a step back and looked at what today’s environment is and how my music can fit into that,” he reports. “I don’t follow trends and I’ve always followed my heart, whether my music fits in or not, but I want to be a player in the game and continue to evolve as an artist. This record, so far, has great musicianship, great melodies and lyrics that today’s audience can relate to.” 

So does Turner deliver in his return to country music with his new single “Lay Low”? Yes, in fact he does deliver. It’s a love song about a couple getting away from everything. They want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and just spend time together alone. As Turner says in his interview with Rolling Stone, it reminded him of a secluded spot him and his wife like to go to in South Carolina to get away from everything. Vocal-wise Turner sounds just as great as ever with his smooth, deep baritone voice. No auto-tune to be found. Although towards the end of the songs the background vocals are little too overproduced. But it doesn’t hurt the overall quality of the song.

Instrumentation wise the song starts off with a mandolin and acoustic guitar. The acoustic guitar is the main instrument used throughout the song along with some light drum machine play. I think the song is written well. No bro country tropes or laundry list clichés are present because Turner actually wants to be respected for his music. It’s just a romantic country song that a man is singing to his love. The writers of the song are Ross Copperman, Tony Martin and Mark Nesler. The latter two also helped write “Time Is Love.” Kudos to the three writers for crafting a solid song.

This is a great first single from Turner’s new album. It’s a good sign to see one of the few consistently traditional mainstream country artists to remain true to their roots. Too many older artists (Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw) are trying to remain hip and cool. Turner just makes the music he wants to make and how they perform is how they perform. I think “Lay Low” can do well on radio, but I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ll be interested to see if it can chart in the top 25 on Billboard’s Hot Country songs chart too. Nice to see Turner back with another solid single.

Grade: 8.5/10