The Brooks & Dunn star enlisted McCollum for a rueful song titled “The Road to Abilene,” in which the two sing of a love they left behind.
“Oh, the road to Abilene / Way off out there beyond the bright-light beams / I was wild-high crazy on a six-string dream / Like a song in my heart she still sings / I miss that girl in Abilene,” they sing in the chorus.
Sonically, the song fits the classic tale of mending a broken heart at the local watering hole. Although the track keeps pace, the tone is filled with sorrow. Both Dunn and McCollum’s voices pine and yearn for that girl back in Abilene, painting the picture of a lonely heart drowning their pain beneath the neon lights as happy couples dance around them.
To really hone in on the Abilene feel, Dunn opens the track with a clip of West Texas wind:
The story could very well be a real-life anecdote for those who know Dunn’s backstory. Born in Coleman, Texas, Dunn attended Abilene Christian University during his college years. At the time, however, he was also playing gigs in barrooms in Texas and Oklahoma. Eventually he chose to forgo his education and pursue music full time. Whether he actually left a girl behind or not is up to the listener to decide.
“I went to college in Abilene, Texas, and we used to call it the belt buckle of the Baptist belt of West Texas, which is a super conservative, cowboy world,” Dunn tells Billboard. “I just got into painting this picture of the music scene in Abilene and dodging the religious, church ethos of the school I went to — and trying to paint pictures of that eternal wind that blows, tumbleweeds and a young guy leaving town and his girlfriend to go chase that six-string dream.”
The “Neon Moon” singer is right in his wheelhouse with his new album, which is filled with honky-tonk tracks dripping with ’90s flair. Dunn says the ’90s resurgence country music is experiencing today is sparking his creativity. In fact, he says he’s already putting the finishing touches on another solo project which he describes as a “cowboy record.”
See 50 Essential ’90s Country Songs
If you call yourself a real fan of ’90s country music, you probably need to know the words to all of these hit songs.