Editors’ Notes Ronnie Dunn has had plenty of occasions to look back on his two-decade run of hits with Brooks & Dunn. The duo reunited for a flashy Vegas show, made an album revisiting their best-known numbers with a new generation of guests, and got inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. But Dunn wasn’t finished looking back: On Re-Dunn, he reinterprets 24 songs that preceded his early-’90s fame and reflect the listening habits and live repertoire from his formative years on the Texas and Oklahoma club circuits. “I wanted to put something down, almost selfishly, to define the music and songs that are involved with—I hate using this term because it sounds so heady and very un-country-singerish—my musical DNA,” he tells Apple Music. Since Dunn built his Nashville reputation on hard-rocking modern honky-tonk, it’s hardly surprising that his taste in covers spans traditional country, country rock, soft rock, pop, and R&B. What they have in common is comfortably solid grooves. Altogether, they showcase his leathery depth and discernment as a singer. What's clear is that Dunn relished shifting the spotlight from his commercial legacy to his musical sensibilities and memories, as did the seasoned studio musicians he handpicked for the project. “Some of them would inevitably start telling some story about someone they knew that played on the record, or an experience that they'd had on the personal level, and they just added fuel to the fire,” he recalls. Here are the stories behind eight of the classics he covered on Re-Dunn.

Drinkin’ Thing
“Gary Stewart [who recorded this tune in the ’70s] came along after I got out of college and moved from Texas to Tulsa. I was playing in a bar band and went in one night and the jukebox was just lit up. They were playing one Gary Stewart song after the other. It was more about the style and the originality and the authenticity of what Gary represented. That was the most down-in-the-dirt beer joint music I had ever heard. And the vocal matched the subject matter of the song.”

Peaceful Easy Feeling
“The Eagles come along, and on the first record, ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’—I'm thinking, ‘That's country to me. Now we're talking.’ That was a song that we played [in the bars] all the time. That's a 2/4 dance song.”

If You Don’t Know Me by Now
“There's two dominant versions of ‘If You Don't Know Me by Now'—Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes and Simply Red—and both are pretty darn classic. [My version] evolved way late at night when we were in the studio and maybe should have gone to bed a few hours earlier. There are a couple that I wish I had a few more minutes to finesse a bit. I was dancing dangerously close to the fire with those. I go back to Willie [Nelson], on [1978's collection of pop standards] Stardust. Of course he's not in any way trying to capture those vocals. He's doing what he wanted to. I'm not going to say it's my version of that, but it's the same mindset.”

The Cowboy Rides Away
“I gravitate back to ‘Cowboy Rides Away’ and ‘That's the Way Love Goes’ more than any other two that I did. Those are the kinds of songs that came natural, that were just effortless and felt good, really in my wheelhouse.”

Showdown
“I don't know what it is about Jeff Lynne, other than he's a darn genius at melodies. The line about the southern wind, it just kind of stuck with me for some reason. That was one of the songs that were way off to the left of center for me.”

Ashes by Now
“In the mid-’80s, late ’80s, when I was really paying attention in Tulsa, Rodney [Crowell] was so cool and progressive, and to me he was right in that vein with Emmylou Harris. I had a buddy that managed the local record store, and he would call me before he put the Rodney albums out on the shelves and say, ‘I'm having them hold one back for you. His new one just came out.’ So I was crazy about that one. And I actually played ‘Ashes by Now’ in the clubs a lot.”

A Showman’s Life
“I wasn't aware of ‘A Showman's Life’ until I came to Nashville, and then several producers I worked with over the years kept throwing that song out. And as a result, it's been cut by almost everyone, from George Strait to you name it. A lot of people.”

Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues
“I think that the biggest stretch was ‘Good Time Charlie.’ I know a lot of people have cut that over the years, but I've come to the conclusion that no one's going to match Danny O'Keefe's [early '70s] version. I mean, I've sat with players and we've broken that track down analytically. I mean, as much as you can, we put it in the test tube. So many of the songs out of that era, the tracks were so imperfect, which is the charm.”

SONG
Amarillo by Morning
1
2:48
 
Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)
2
3:36
 
That's How I Got to Memphis
3
3:04
 
It Never Rains in Southern California
4
4:18
 
How Long
5
3:26
 
Drinkin' Thing
6
3:29
 
Together Again
7
2:44
 
Peaceful Easy Feeling
8
4:18
 
Against the Wind
9
4:26
 
If You Don't Know Me by Now
10
3:26
 
I Won't Back Down
11
3:03
 
The Cowboy Rides Away
12
3:24
 
Showdown
13
4:06
 
Wonderful Tonight
14
3:37
 
Ashes by Now
15
4:17
 
That's the Way Love Goes
16
3:02
 
I'm Not in Love
17
4:45
 
Brown Eyed Girl
18
3:38
 
You Don't Know Me
19
4:22
 
Ridin' My Thumb to Mexico
20
3:18
 
A Showman's Life
21
4:45
 
Good Time Charlie's Got the Blues
22
3:13
 
Amie
23
4:10
 
I Can't Help It (If I'm Still in Love with You)
24
2:46