Release Date: Aug 23, 2011
Record label: Republic Nashville
Genre(s): Country, Contemporary Country, Neo-Traditionalist Country, Honky Tonk
The disappearance of solo women from country radio has been the crisis du jour in country music circles over the last few months, with the majority of commentators and pundits using it as an opportunity to rail against radio programmers’ narrow playlists and demographic baiting. A less popular, possibly more controversial counterpoint? The solo women in country music haven’t been releasing a whole hell of a lot of quality material lately and seriously need to get their collective shit together. Enter Texas native and erstwhile improv comic Sunny Sweeney.
After 2007's Heartbreaker's Hall of Fame, Sunny Sweeney's debut album for Big Machine Records, she worked hard on the road and in the media to promote a record that in many ways set itself apart from its peers. That said, despite favorable press and some radio play, that album was overshadowed by Miranda Lambert's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (another artist from her native East Texas). Nashville is weird like that: rather than embrace a burgeoning music scene from a particular region, it only accepts into its heart-of-hype one artist at a time from a particular place.
As a modern country music singer with a retro streak, Sunny Sweeney walks a narrow tightrope laid out for females in the format. It’s a daunting challenge to court radio programmers and connect with a wide audience while maintaining your own distinct persona, but Sweeney’s persistence pays off on her second album, Concrete. The album is a winning mix of traditional and contemporary: her arrangements are often performed with pedal steel and electric guitar, and the age-old problems of infidelity and heavy drinking are represented with modern twists.
Sunny Sweeney's got the chops: a hard-bitten Texas twang that can cut with both coyness and attitude, unapologetic about the kind of country she was raised on. Which is what makes the Longview native's sophomore LP so disappointing. Concrete is gritty but so watered down by contemporary Nashville arrangements that nothing sticks.