Ronnie Dunn Bleeds Red, Y'all
Has this ever happened to you: you find someone’s hair so damnably annoying that it blinds you to being able to listen to them, or even try to? It’s as if allowing yourself to like their music is somehow an affirmation of the offensive follicular display. This, I suppose, is a downside to ever being able to see the folks who sing as opposed to just hearing them on the radio.
I have, I must confess, been a victim of this obviously wrongheaded and stupid affliction, and it has for years prevented me from enjoying much worthy music.
Take for example, Keith Urban. All I saw when I looked at that guy was a great swatch of floppy bangs that screamed out for a cut or a headband – something, anything to keep it all from falling in his face. His face was too pretty, too. The fact that he was supposed to be some huge heartthrob did not help his cause: it only indicated that he was for teenagers and, well, Nicole Kidman. How terribly silly this was. Keith Urban’s hair is still irritating, but it’s been tamed somewhat in recent years, and his records have benefitted. Is there a connection?
Keith #1: How can anyone take this seriously?
Keith #2: Now, that's better
The other obvious example that comes to mind is poor, beleaguered Ronnie Dunn. Holy Crap, but that man has been having a bad hair day for freakin’ years. How is it even possible that a man with facial hair that ridiculous looking could be successful? The thing is, imagining him without it is, if anything, worse. But it’s the enthusiastic whomph of chestnut locks that appears fuelled by Miracle-Gro, paired with the luxurious full-goatee or whatever it’s called, that really seals the deal. Ick! Urgh!
Ronnie in full shaggy mode
On the basis of Ronnie Dunn’s beard alone I resisted even listening to Brooks and Dunn records, despite their legendary fame until only a few years ago, by which time I was way late to the show, as they’d decided to split up.
Still, better late than never, and naturally, The Inky Jukebox is today a huge fan.
It is with this in mind that I want to talk about Ronnie Dunn’s new record, “Bleed Red.” First off, it sounds exactly, unmistakably like Ronnie Dunn, which is not a bad thing. Because I once heard him say in an interview that he often sings off-key, I have always had a suspicion that I’m hearing Auto-Tune Ronnie Dunn, but I have also heard him sing live enough to know that he can indeed deliver. His voice is rich and sprightly, like a particularly toothsome hunk of chuck steak that has almost melted after hours and hours of slow cooking. He has an enormous range, all of which is pushed on this record.
It is the sort of anthemic song that feels as if it were composed from an anthem-making kit: fit chord A into slot B, add tinkle of piano and rising crescendo, etc…. The lyrics are also a grab bag of schmaltz about people all being alike and whatnot. I can imagine Shylock giving this speech, Ronnie Dunn dressed in tights on the Globe’s stage, but perhaps that’s unfair. It’s a song that could be delivered with equal aplomb by Miley Cyrus, if I’m being honest (take note, Disney): in fact, give it to ANYONE and they could make it sound brilliant.
You think I’m giving it a bad review, but I’m not. I love the song. It satisfies the need I have for the occasional bit of music candy. And that's what it is: a big old lump of sugar. But I am very glad to have Ronnie Dunn’s voice coming through my speakers with something new, after he and Kix Brooks parted ways. Kix can be found regularly on my dial anyway, giving us the Top 40 American Country Countdown.
(I loves me some Kix Brooks - a man who never has a bad hair day...)