Brooks & Dunn Stroll Down 'Red Dirt Road'

As Brooks & Dunn's The Neon Circus & Wild West Show tour begins its third year of combining circus fun with a down home jamboree, group member Kix Brooks tells that the duo is ey

As Brooks & Dunn's Neon Circus & Wild West Show tour begins its third year of combining circus fun with a down home jamboree, group member Kix Brooks tells that the duo is eyeing a July 15 release for its next Arista disc, "Red Dirt Road."

"Typically, it would be great to have an album out when you go on tour, but the stars didn't line up that way and we didn't want to rush this music because we were in the middle of it," says Brooks. "We just took extra time and kept working on it. What we originally came out of the studio with was not what this thing ended up being. We just kind of worked it and kneaded it along until we felt like it was fresh and pretty cool."

Touring before an album is ready is nothing new to this twosome, as the same thing happened two years ago with the release of the double-platinum "Steers & Stripes." But Brooks & Dunn did take a different approach with "Red Dirt Road," which is more roots oriented and organic than anything in its catalog. The difference can be heard on the title track and the lead single, which is No. 24 on Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks Chart. Not only has the outfit redefined its sound, but its storytelling perspective has shifted to mirror a somber society.

"I think as much as anything, a lot of it comes from where our country is right now," discloses Brooks. "When we were making this record and going through all of this stuff, not just after 9/11 but gearing up for war in Iraq, I think without realizing it, we did a lot of reflection on where we live, where we come from. Before all of that started happening, I think as Americans, everybody just seemed to be kind of bouncing along and flying off the cuff and just kind of a 'yee-haw' time. And I think some things in the last few years have made us all look back on what is real, where we come from. We didn't really sit down to do that, but I think our heads just maybe got into a little different place. Brooks & Dunn music changed a little bit."

The group, which co-wrote all but two of the disc's 14 tracks, has included tales of growing up ("When We Were Kings") and finding true love ("My Baby's Everything I Love"). Perhaps making the most noise is the hidden track "Holy War," which was written by Dunn after the album was completed and features a Pentecostal church choir vibe just begging for tambourine accompaniment.

It remains to be seen how fans will embrace the new material, but Brooks & Dunn have a revolving concert set list aimed to please. "It kind of changes from night to night," says Brooks. "We'll at least be doing a couple of new ones and we know people want to hear 'My Maria' and 'Neon Moon.' We try not to bog people down with music they are not familiar with, but at the same time, we are pretty proud of it so we want them to get a taste, anyway. It's just a ton of fun, ton of great music."

The Neon Circus & Wild West Show tour, with special guests Rascal Flatts, Cledus T. Judd, Brad Paisley, Aaron Lines and Jeff Bates, plays Uncasville, Conn., tonight (May 9).