Music » Livewire

Brooks & Dunn

With Sugarland and Jack Ingram. Thursday, July 20, at Blossom.

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Songwriting and performance talent aside, you don't become the most popular, best-selling duo in the history of country music -- and maintain that status for 15 years -- without a knack for surveying the landscape, determining exactly what the people are clamoring for, and serving it to them (and isn't that what country music has always been about -- catering to fans, rather than foisting some kind of left-field artistic vision on them?) Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn -- previously flailing solo artists conjoined by prescient Nashville record execs in the late '80s -- felt the line-dancing craze was about to explode and provided the folks with "Boot Scootin' Boogie" on their '91 debut, the honky-tonkin' Brand New Man. Throughout the '90s they fed that fad, then went for Skynyrd-style rock when they sensed a hankerin' for country music with balls (see 2001's Steers and Stripes and 2003's Red Dirt Road).

Now, with the back-to-basics movement in full swing (save for maybe the hick-hop of Big & Rich and Cowboy Troy), Brooks & Dunn have their latest album -- 2005's twang-packed, trad-country Hillbilly Deluxe -- to continue touring behind. Boundary pushers? Nah. The ultimate crowd pleasers? You know it!

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