In truth, all Ronnie Dunn had to do to make a passable solo album was find halfway decent songs and avoid an instrumental project. Dunn is the preeminent voice in country music, and as long as he's singing, fans will be listening. It's clear nobody told him this, however. His self-titled release -- due out on June 7 -- has a nervous attention to detail that lifts his first post-Brooks and Dunn experience from ordinary to spectacular.

Before releasing 'Bleed Red,' the album's first single, Dunn brought select radio programmers together and asked for their opinions on many of the 13 songs. He was sincerely worried his first effort without Kix Brooks would fall upon deaf ears. It's doubtful anyone would criticize a country legend like Dunn, but reactions were over the top with enthusiasm. Ballads like 'Cost of Livin'' and 'I Don't Dance' are as vulnerable and emotional as almost anything he's recorded in 20 years. 'Cost of Livin'' will no doubt become a single soon, and listeners will be further moved to hear the story of what songwriter Phillip Coleman was going through when he penned the song.

The uptempo cuts like 'Singer in a Cowboy Band' and 'How Far to Waco' don't fall flat either. In recent years, it felt as though Dunn was going through the motions while recording these types of songs, and as a result they failed to become memorable hits. That's not the case on either of these rockers. Dunn produced a video for 'Waco,' and although it's doubtful the song will reach radio, the Tex-Mex inspired track is a wonderful album cut that features a well-placed mariachi horn section. It's the best use of trumpets in a country song since Johnny Cash fired up the band on 'Ring of Fire.'

'Ronnie Dunn' will inevitably be compared to everything Brooks and Dunn recorded, and the singer seems to understand and appreciate this. None of the 12 tracks (nine co-written by Dunn) are deviations from the brand he built with his longtime partner, but there are subtle differences to make this effort stand out on its own -- most notably different singers harmonizing with him. Dunn can breathe easy now. As long as he's duplicating this effort, he'll be a staple on radio stations for as long as he wants to be.

4.5 Stars

Ronnie Dunn Fans: We’re giving away an autographed Ronnie Dunn CD and a Ronnie Dunn shirt! After you’ve left your comments about 'Bleed Red' and the new album below, enter to win by following @tasteofcountry on Twitter and re-tweeting the announcement of the giveaway. You must enter by 11:59PM ET on Monday, June 6. We’ll choose the winner at random and notify him or her via Twitter. Good luck!

Watch the Ronnie Dunn 'Bleed Red' Video

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