As Kix Brooks relaxes on a tour bus rolling towards Phoenix, Ariona. for another show without longtime touring partner Ronnie Dunn, he admits that his fans have no idea what to expect from him. There's an anxious moment between the dimming of the lights and the first thump of the kick drum that's not unlike the few tenuous seconds before a first date. You knock, hear foot steps approaching and hold your breath... 

"The good news is, I think at the end of the show so far we've won 'em over," the now-solo artist says with a northwest Louisiana drawl that adds a sense of danger to songs like 'Tattoo' on 'New to This Town,' which hit stores Sept. 11.

"And I'm getting a lot of feedback that's, 'Hey, I didn't realize you could do that,'" Brooks says. While Brooks and Dunn shared a creative vision that made them the top country duo of all time, the Shreveport-born singer only sang three or four songs a night during live sets. After 20 years, there's this sense that he's just being introduced for the first time. He's the one coming to the door, while we stand on the mat and hope and pray he's everything we expected.

That's something this cowboy/singer/radio host/wine maker seems comfortable with. Throughout a long phone conversation with Taste of Country, Brooks talked about his rowdy youth, Dunn and the new album in detail, while admitting he was cautious not to create another Brooks and Dunn album. In truth, that seems impossible, as the 'Bring It on Home' singer has a unique patter that's a charming garnish to the conversation, as well as the 12 new songs. He uses phrases like "hook something" and "wing it" to refer to the good and bad of studio recording. When asked about his posh American Country Countdown studios (Brooks' weekly radio countdown), his answer is polite and concise:

"I just built me a good cowboy bar and I make radio in there, it's a good time."

If nothing else, this singer -- a country newbie much more than Dunn was a year ago -- proves to be much more than the quiet one who was more famous for his mustache than his message.

This new album is a lot rowdier than we expected.

[laughs] Well, good, thanks. You know, it's just kind of where I come from.

The two singles you've released don't really give fans the idea that there is going to be sort of the rocking, bluesy, swampy feel that a couple of songs have. How come you went with those two as singles?

I agree with you. I think the first single ('New to This Town') is a better representation than the one we just released ('Bring It on Home'). And as you know, a lot of that comes from radio. You try to take the lead from your record company and the feedback they're getting. And when a song's released as a single, if radio is not going to play it, I guess it doesn't matter what it represents.

Obviously, either one of those songs wouldn't be on the record if I didn't like them and believe in them and write them. But there is certainly some more rocking stuff on there and hopefully some of those songs will get their chance too.

How many of the 12 songs did you help write?

I think nine of them.

Was there one song in particular that really took a lot of effort to get right?

No. Actually, when I went into the studio I had written about 40 or 50 songs and we just camped out for about three weeks… And I was kinda cuttin' like demos, and when they felt right, like 'Moonshine Road' just locked in, I felt like we hooked it on the first take.

You mentioned 'Moonshine Road.' Talk a little more about that song and the lyrics.

Well, I kinda grew up with a boathouse in my backyard on this lake in Louisiana called Lake Bistineau. And it was full of cypress trees and hanging moss and just kind of the essence of Louisiana in my mind. And we had a place where we'd go get in trouble, where you knew it was there waiting if it was that kind of night. It's just sort of a whole night experience where we go. In our 20s, get into it with girls and get in fights and all that stuff… and I was just kind of visualizing that place. This roadhouse out in the middle of nowhere -- which this place was -- and the road getting there was a lot like 'Moonshine Road.'

Some of your fans might have trouble envisioning you getting into a fist fight, even in your younger years. Were you a fighter?

[laughs] I got into a couple. I never was a troublemaker but you know there's something about a bar and alcohol that tends to lead to stuff being part of your normal everyday exercise. I remember the last fight that I got in, and that was the last fight that I got in, you know. When you realize this really can hurt.

How long ago was that?

That was several semesters ago. I haven't been in a fight in a lot of years.

What song on the album most stretches who you are as an artist?

I think 'My Baby Ain't Coming Back' is probably as rockin' left field as anything on this record. And that's a song that I didn't write. It's something that we wouldn't have cut with Brooks and Dunn, but I would have cut and played in bars before that. And I think it's the kind of song when I heard it's like, 'That's why I'm doing this.' There's a part of me that really wants to get back just to slinging it and rockin' and doing that whole fun, club thing. And that's what I'm doing and it's as fun as I wanted it to be.