2021 finds Nashville-founded Hall of Fame country tandem Brooks and Dunn back on the road after a decade away from the arena and stadium touring spotlight. “It’s fun being onstage and playing stuff we’d written and been a part of over the years. We had like 50 top 10 songs and 25 number ones. It’s fun to pull that music back up, sort through it and give it a boost,” noted Ronnie Dunn recently to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. In the exactly three decades that have transpired since their debut single, “Brand New Man,” became their first chart-topper in 1991, the duo feels like they have “done it all” since then. Thus, it makes sense to take a deeper look at their initial Billboard smash to see their superstar DNA develop.
“When their music was coming out, it was kind of like the heyday of me being a kid in the car with my parents listening to the radio. So I just gravitated heavily towards Brooks & Dunn,” says Luke Combs in a press release, who recorded an updated version of the quadruple platinum-selling song with the duo for 2019’s Reboot, their 11th studio album, which featured 12 new versions of their classics as duets with country artists including Kacey Musgraves, Thomas Rhett, Brothers Osborne, Kane Brown and Brett Young.
“Brand New Man” is the lead single from the band’s debut album bearing the same name. In full, AllMusic notes that the duo’s “pop-country” debut “[occupies] the middle ground between Johnny Cash and the Eagles [with] a terrific group of songs that are memorable, hummable, and, most importantly, fun.” Power chords, an easygoing groove, and Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn’s vocals uniting on a song about feeling renewed and calmed by new love make the song feel like not the duo’s first hit, but their tenth — it’s a timeless story delivered in a timeless style.
As an album, Brand New Man produced four consecutive number-one singles: “Brand New Man,” “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” “My Next Broken Heart,” and “Neon Moon.” However, both Brooks and Dunn having decade-long and chart-topping success as songwriters, musicians, and solo vocalists (with the likes of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Oak Ridge Boys) before joining forces should ultimately color the expectation of these songs. Though new as a pairing, Brooks and Dunn were essential to the core foundation of pop-aimed country in the 1980s, which bridged the countrypolitan and neotraditional eras. Therefore, a song like “Brand New Man” can blend tuneful, soul-filled grooves with melodic harmony-driven crooning that bridges two dynamic eras in country music’s history incredibly well.
Having a pop-styled debut artist single hit number one at the onset of the 1990s certainly spoke volumes for the success-to-come for Brooks and Dunn. “When the crowds for country shows got bigger and bigger, we were running the same numbers as rock acts,” says Ronnie Dunn. The song’s success helped them make history as the second country band to reach the top of country music’s charts with a debut single (the first was Diamond Rio, whose “Meet in the Middle” was another 1991 debut hit). Overall, as an album, Brand New Man has sold over six million copies. Also, eight of the pair’s ten studio albums are platinum sellers. Moreover, three of their compilation records have been certified platinum, too.
“Brand New Man”’s success has keyed the band’s legacy. After breaking up in 2009, they reunited for a 2015 Las Vegas residency with Reba McEntire. Upon continuing their pairing for the Reboot album, they’ve also continued — as noted — to tour, too. Regarding their partnership continuing, some measure of the harmonious collaboration that made their first hit one of their greatest emerges: “It comes down to the chemistry between the two people. That’s the stuff that you don’t see on stage,” says Ronnie Dunn to the Cincinnati Inquirer. “Kix and I have always had a good strong friendship, and it’s become even more binding over the years.”