JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

May 19, 2012
Billy Bob's Texas
Fort Worth, TX USA
Review by David Huff
Photos by Jeff Jones

Ronnie Dunn

I had a predicament this particular Saturday evening. I could watch the legendary Joe Walsh perform at a festival in North Dallas, or I could kick back with the Dave Matthews Band in an amphitheater at the state fair grounds and jam. Or, if I wanted to be really adventurous, I had the opportunity to step out of my rock and roll comfort zone and head on over to Billy Bob's Texas for a little 'boot scootin' boogie' with Ronnie Dunn. The decision was easy. I had to see the 'singer in a cowboy band'.

When it comes to country music, I don't deny I'm a fish out of water. But that's okay because venturing into the unknown opens up a lot of possibilities. Besides, walking around Billy Bob's is sort of an adventure in itself. There's a lot of history in the world's largest honky-tonk. Why, I still remember my first trip down to the infamous facility in 1983 to watch the red hot Men at Work in concert. This building has always been full of surprises for me, so attending country legend Ronnie Dunn's solo performance I hoped, would add yet another chapter to my Billy Bob's library.

The decision, it turns out, was a good one. When Ronnie's band kicked off with "Let the Cowboy Rock," those musicians on stage took that song title serious. They were jamming so hard, for a brief second, I was thinking maybe Dunn had stepped out of his comfort zone and decided to take a walk on the wild side. The band settled down somewhat for the Ray Charles tune "Ain't Nothing 'Bout You," but the point had been made. The next two songs, "Singer in a Cowboy Band" and "How Far to Waco" saw the band tear it up once again, with the gangly 6'6" Dunn working up a sweat on guitar and behind the mic, right along with his cohorts on stage.

One of the biggest problems an artist of Dunn's stature faces is how to deal with the past. The situation facing the Texas native was a daunting one because of his celebrated history. Ronnie had walked away from his long time partner to reestablish his name, and his name alone. His self-titled solo album did a good job of laying that foundation when it was released last year. However, you just can't go cold turkey on the music that made you an award winning artist. The balancing act can overwhelm some artists, but not Dunn. He took it all in stride. The musician knew that a vast majority of the people in the audience were expecting to hear the hits that put him on the country map. After rocking out three of the first four songs from his debut, Dunn dutifully obliged the crowd. He gave them all a rollicking Brooks & Dunn songfest I doubt many in attendance would soon forget.

Since I've already admitted country music is a bit out of my comfort zone, it would be a tad foolish to pretend I knew all the Brooks & Dunn tunes Ronnie performed this evening. Honestly, I didn't recognize any of the songs when he sang them. That's not to say the people sitting next to me did not. When they started cheering for "Red Dirt Road" and "Neon Moon," I had to ask those sitting next to me what they thought. To my surprise, they told me Ronnie's rocked out versions of the song really fired them up. There excitement continued as the band launched in to six more B&D songs before ending the set with "My Maria." Well, I guess you can make it seven more B&D songs because the country duo made this B.W. Stevenson classic their own.

While I was researching Ronnie Dunn, I came across a blog journal he was writing I found quite refreshing. The singer was approaching his solo career one show at a time. If he played before 500 people one evening and 15,000 the next, the band was going to rock the crowd regardless. He was on the road with a bunch of guys that loved to play music, and performing in front of audiences that were there specifically to see him. This particular show, Dunn gave those in attendance exactly what they wanted to hear. A little bit of Ronnie's present with a good deal of his storied past.

To cap off the surprises this night, I discovered Ronnie Dunn and I both shared the same birthday, January 13. When I mentioned it to him backstage, he chuckled and said "Really, 1984, right?" I just looked up at him and said sure. After all, who was I to argue with sound logic from a true country legend.

Set List:
Let the Cowboy Rock
Ain't Nothin' About You (Ray Charles cover)
Singer in a Cowboy Band
How Far to Waco
Red Dirt Road
Neon Moon
Cowgirls Don't Cry
Johnny Cash Junky
You Don't Know Me
Cost of Livin'
Play Somethin' Country
Put a Girl in It
Boot Scootin' Boogie
My Maria
Bleed Red
Honky Tonk Stomp

Southside Ballroom