Ronnie Dunn’s forthcoming solo covers project, Re-Dunn, happened by chance. While rehearsing several rock songs earlier this year for a Spotify session, none of the musicians wanted to quit playing. Dunn and the band continued recording additional classic rock songs before the project halted to work on Brooks & Dunn’s latest album Reboot.
“It’s a passion project,” Dunn tells Billboard. “We laugh and call it ‘Dunn For Fun.’ There’s really not much rhyme or reason other than these are songs that I have on playlists and have been around forever.”
Initially planned as a rock covers project, Dunn had recorded more than two dozen songs early in the process. However, once he finished work on Reboot he decided to throw his favorite country songs into the mix as well.
“I said, ‘That was so much fun. Let’s do a country thing.’ So we ended up doing 12 or 13 country songs, different covers,” he says. “Some of them are old school but others are fairly contemporary like, ‘That’s How I Got to Memphis’ and ‘Amarillo By Morning.’ These are songs I played in clubs and the soundtrack of what I’ve listened to all my life.”
Today (Sept. 6), Dunn released two covers featured on the project, “Amarillo By Morning” written and released by Terry Stafford in 1973 and later made famous by George Strait in 1983, and The Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress).” Each month ahead of Re-Dunn’s release in January 2020, Dunn will unveil another country and rock cover from the project.
Dunn used to cover “Amarillo By Morning” when he was starting out as a musician in college. As he explains, he’d often play weekend gigs at local VFWs with pickup bands. “At the time, that song was a regional hit in west Texas where I was going to school by an artist named Terry Stafford,” he says. “This is way before Strait cut it. Later in the ‘80s when George did his thing, I’m going, ‘Wow! We used to do that song in cover bands years ago.’”
It was Rascal Flatts’ Joe Don Rooney who first gave Dunn the idea to cover The Hollies’ hit. Dunn says years ago while Rascal Flatts opened for Brooks & Dunn on tour, Rooney grabbed him while walking off stage one night.
“He goes, ‘RD, there’s a song you got to cut, man. It sounds so much like you,’ and it was ‘Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress).’ For some reason it stuck with me and I’d always loved the song, but I didn’t know what it said. It’s about some kind of drug bust… I just remember walking into a club or hearing it somewhere. I guess the musician in me heard the guitar riff. That song was everywhere, and it has this infectious beat.”
Dunn is well known for his distinct country vocals and he admits that when he first got into the studio to record he began mimicking Tom Petty as best as he could in the vocal booth.
“I was doing ‘I Won’t Back Down’ and it started getting creepy after a couple [takes]. I was like, ‘I need to go do these like how I sing. If I slur a word a little bit, like we do in country sometimes or my Texas/Oklahoma accent comes into play, I need to go ahead and ride that horse, not try to chase all the little nuances of a very stylized Tom Petty vocal,’” he says. “I went back and countrified it naturally. I tried to honor the song as much as I could, but I can’t keep my nuances out of play.”
Dunn says the project is a “grand experiment” and he was simply having fun in the studio. Re-Dunn will be released on his own label imprint, Little Willy Records. It includes a varied track list with covers of everything from Electric Light Orchestra’s “Showdown” – “that’s just crazy, vibe-y stuff. It makes no sense so be it” – to Paul Carrack’s aching earworm “How Long.”
Despite his role as one-half of Brooks & Dunn — the most awarded country duo of all-time, who will also be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame later this year — Dunn remains realistic about his forthcoming release.
“I know I’m just putting a target on my chest by doing it. I know full well that I can’t go in and do justice to the originals,” he admits. “It’s a pure, innocent passion project flat out, and it sure has been fun.”
Complete track list for Re-Dunn is below.
1.“Amarillo by Morning” — (originally recorded by Terry Stafford)
2. “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)” — (originally recorded by The Hollies)
3. “That’s How I Got to Memphis” — (originally recorded by Tom T. Hall)
4. “It Never Rains In Southern California” — (originally recorded by Albert Hammond)
5. “How Long” — (originally recorded by Paul Carrack)
6. “Drinkin’ Thing” — (originally recorded by Gary Stewart)
7. “Together Again” — (originally recorded by Buck Owens)
8. “Peaceful Easy Feeling” — (originally recorded by the Eagles)
9. “Against The Wind” — (originally recorded by Bob Seger)
10. “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” — (originally recorded by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes)
11. “I Won’t Back Down” — (originally recorded by Tom Petty)
12. “Cowboy Rides Away” — (originally recorded by George Strait)
13. “Showdown” — (originally recorded by Electric Light Orchestra)
14. “Wonderful Tonight” — (originally recorded by Eric Clapton)
15. “Ashes By Now” — (originally recorded by Rodney Crowell)
16. “That’s The Way Love Goes” — (originally recorded by Johnny Rodriguez)
17. “I’m Not In Love” — (originally recorded by 10cc)
18. “Brown Eyed Girl” — (originally recorded by Van Morrison)
19. “You Don’t Know Me” — (originally recorded by Eddy Arnold)
20. “Ridin’ My Thumb To Mexico” — (originally recorded by Johnny Rodriguez)
21. “A Showman’s Life” — (originally recorded by Jesse Winchester)
22. “Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues” — (originally recorded by Danny O’Keefe)
23. “Amie” — (originally recorded by Pure Prairie League)
24. “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)” — (originally recorded by Hank Williams)