I wasn’t planning to review this in any capacity, but given that I covered new albums from George Strait and Reba McEntire recently, I might as well come full circle with the ’90s country trifecta.
Because this album is mainly just a series of Brooks & Dunn re-recording their biggest hits with the new generation of country music, I wanted to do something different for this piece. I’ve seen (and heard) mostly mixed reception regarding this project, with everyone’s favorites fluctuating greatly (though, I should note that I’m referring to what I’ve seen on Twitter, so perhaps this critic is just talking out of his you-know-where).
As such, I’m going to rank, from least-to-most-favorite, every track on Brooks & Dunn’s Reboot project instead of outright “reviewing” it. Without further ado …
12. “Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You” (w/ Brett Young)
This is without a doubt the worst track on the project. What made the original version of this song so cool and captivating was its sensual appeal and delivery. Here, Brett Young decides to strip that away for something that sounds colder and (definitely) less sexy. Young isn’t a captivating singer, but he can be convincing on his own original material given the right song. Here, that’s not the case, and what was one of Brooks & Dunn’s coolest sounding singles gets neutered to become an awful take all around.
11. “Neon Moon” (w/ Kacey Musgraves)
I’m well aware how controversial it is placing this song at the bottom here. But there’s a fairly obvious flaw with this take on one of Brooks & Dunn’s best singles. Simply put, a dance beat is the last thing “Neon Moon” needed. What’s all the more frustrating is that Kacey Musgraves’ delicate cadence elevates the lyric to a higher level than Ronnie Dunn’s did. In other words, what could have easily been the best track on this project is ruined by something that distracts from the beauty of the song.
10. “Red Dirt Road” (w/ Cody Johnson)
I was surprised to hear how stripped down this track was compared to the original, because I could totally see Cody Johnson handling the original quite well. At it is, while I don’t think this take is bad, this is a case where I simply prefer the original to a greater degree. What made “Red Dirt Road” originally so appealing was its energy. It didn’t carry the absolute greatest or complete story in the world, but it had one that resonated nonetheless. The beauty was in its simplicity, in other words. Here, the quieter focus just doesn’t really do the song justice, at least to me. Still, I like that they went for something different.
9. “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” (w/ Midland)
Truthfully, I quite like this version of “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” and it suits Midland’s own style well. The band just doesn’t contribute much to the overall track or stand out much compared to how the original version went. Still, it’s a fun song, and the only reason it’s not higher is because I simply like the other songs better.
8. “Mama Don’t Get Dressed Up For Nothing” (w/ LANCO)
This is another case where I’m not sure the featured band really brings much to the table, but I do appreciate the added energy in the production and instrumentation as well as Kix Brooks’ and Brandon Lancaster’s deliveries. This is another fun song that I find enjoyable enough for what it is.
7. “My Next Broken Heart” (w/ Jon Pardi)
Jon Pardi’s nasally tone probably isn’t the best fit for a song that tests his upper range, but for as much as I’ve praised the last few entries on this list for their energy, this track definitely nails it perfectly. The original was also quite fun, but Pardi’s added charisma just makes it even better.
6. “My Maria” (w/ Thomas Rhett)
To be honest, I wanted to hear this immediately just to see how badly Thomas Rhett would flub the high notes of this song. While I’m convinced there had to be some studio trickery going on here, to my surprise, I actually really like this take on the song. What Rhett lacks in technical ability he often makes up for in his endearing charm, and the slightly modern touches of this surprisingly blend well with his delivery and Dunn’s as well. Again, though, there’s no way Rhett is ever hitting those notes live.
5. “Lost & Found” (w/ Tyler Booth)
Like everyone else, I’m left wondering who Tyler Booth is, but he handles this track well. His voice reminds me of a younger Toby Keith, and this track mainly coasts on a surprisingly good vocal performance from him. Brooks’ voice has definitely not aged all that well, but this is just a case of song succeeding for a solid delivery all around.
4. “Brand New Man” (w/ Luke Combs)
While the song’s production gets fairly overbearing at points, there’s an added energy to this that wasn’t quite there in the original. Both Luke Combs and Dunn sound solid together, and it’s fitting that Combs, the face of country music right now, chose to sang on the song that began it all for Brooks & Dunn.
If I already lost you for placing “My Maria” as high as I did, I can’t imagine what this will do. But this is a tough song to sing, and while Dunn is still able to handle it well, Kane Brown is surprisingly in top vocal form on this song. Brown is a convincing performer when he needs to be, and this is an example of that. This is an excellent way to end the project.
2. “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone” (w/ Ashley McBryde)
My favorite two tracks on Reboot excel for effectively putting new spins on old classics. In the case of this song, the intimate, restrained production only serves to add warmth and nuance to it. As a duet, the song explores a more deeper, more complex narrative and perspective it wasn’t allowed to before. Adding Ashley McBryde to just about anything can make it around ten times better, and this is no exception.
1. “Hard Workin’ Man” (w/ Brothers Osborne)
The original version of this song is around the middle of the pack for me in terms of favorite Brooks & Dunn singles. Brothers Osborne, however, added a completely new layer to this that’s certainly welcome. The duo have always been at their best when they combine meaty guitar lines with a swaggering, unforgiving attitude, and songs like “It Ain’t My Fault” and “Shoot Me Straight” are testaments to that. That, in a nutshell, is the same formula they add to “Hard Workin’ Man,” with TJ Osborne’s menacing delivery suiting the content extremely well. Meanwhile, John Osborne is allowed to shred and turn the energy up to eleven. The duo ultimately give this song a fresh touch and truly make it their own.
So in the end, my least and most favorite tracks ended up being the ones that differed greatly from the originals. Meanwhile, solid renditions of other tracks that don’t deviate much from the originals also managed to win me over.
Reboot may not be the most necessary album to add to your collection, but for what it is, it’s a fun collection of songs that works well surprisingly more than it doesn’t. Aside from a few tracks in the bottom tier, I found Reboot surprisingly enjoyable.
How about you? What are your favorite tracks from Reboot? What are your least-favorite tracks? Let me know down below!