Ronnie Dunn, "Ronnie Dunn"

A phenomenally successful career as part of a duo doesn't guarantee success outside of it. But it should certainly come as no surprise that Ronnie Dunn doesn't slouch or stumble on his solo debut. In fact, the country veteran-who until last year was kickin' it multiplatinum style with Kix Brooks-sounds energized by the challenge on the self-titled 12-song set. Dunn reaches back for his days as a "Singer in a Cowboy Band," and as the new song says, "Mixin' up the fast with the slow ones." The album covers plenty of ground but still sounds comfortably familiar, thanks to his rich voice and understated (and unsung) lead guitar playing. "Let the Cowboy Rock" harks back to Dunn's roadhouse roots, while the mariachi-flavored road song "How Far to Waco" also kicks up some dust. But it's the gentler fare that really defines the set, including "I Don't Dance," "I Just Get Lonely," "I Can't Help Myself" and especially "Cost of Livin'." The lattermost cut is a heartbreaking ballad about a desperate but dignified military vet looking for a job.