My Maria
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Country Rewind: Brooks & Dunn Cover Before-Its-Time Country Rocker 'My Maria'

Brooks & Dunn's fantastic cover of singer-songwriter B.W. Stevenson's "My Maria" from 1996 quickly became a textbook example of how influences from country artists' formidable listening years make for some exciting musical homages. Just as it's easy to assume that someone like Sam Hunt used to cruise around town bumping a mixtape of Garth Brooks and hip-hop, it's feasible that Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn spent time over the years hearing and dissecting Stevenson's ode to his "sweet Maria" before cutting a chart-topping cover version for their Arista Records album Borderline.

Initially recorded in 1973 for RCA Records, the song was co-written by Louis C. Stevenson (B.W. is short for his nickname, Buckwheat) and Daniel Moore, the mind behind Three Dog Night's "Shambala" and other hits. A Dallas native, Stevenson took his country-informed rock song to the No. 9 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Had the concept of Americana existed then, Stevenson and his story-driven work might've been a bigger deal outside of the easy listening and adult contemporary charts.

When Brooks & Dunn revisited  "My Maria" over 20 years later, they made the most of its rootsy charm. Stevenson's lonely dreamer and that gypsy lady suited the preexisting vibe created by Kix and Ronnie's differing vocal and performance styles. Likewise, the song's narrative makes for a fun video that shows Brooks roaming the West at his Marlboro Man look-alike peak.

The result brought more than retro radio vibes to the country charts and music video stations. If anything, Stevenson performed a '90s country hit decades in advance. His rock meets country approach sounded up-to-date already, with Brooks & Dunn adding nothing aside from some extra twang.

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The song's popularity among fans and critics went beyond a stay at the top of the country music charts. It won a Grammy award for Best Country Performance By a Vocal Duo or Group, as well as the Billboard Music Awards' Country Song of the Year.

In the years to come, the song became one of Brooks & Dunn's best-known hits. When the duo ended its first run in 2010, they said farewell to fans by performing "My Maria" at that year's ACM Awards. The same song highlighted their big comeback at the ACM's 50th-anniversary celebration in 2015.

Brooks & Dunn recorded a new version of the song with Thomas Rhett for the 2019 album Reboot.

"My Maria" Lyrics:

My Maria
Don't you know I've come a long, long way
I been longing to see her
When she's around she takes my blues away
Sweet Maria the sunlight surely hurts my eyes
I'm a lonely dreamer on a highway in the skies

My Maria
(Oh Maria I love you girl, oh my Maria)
(Oh Maria I love you girl, Maria)
I love you

Yes, I do now

My Maria there were some blue and sorrow times
Just my thoughts about you bring back my piece of mind
Gypsy lady you're a miracle work for me
You set my soul free like a ship sailing on the sea

She is the sunlight
When skies are gray
She treats me so right lady
Take me away
(Take me away)

My Maria
(Oh Maria I love you girl, oh my Maria)
(Oh Maria I love...)

This post was originally published on July 5, 2018.

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