Album Review: Sunny Sweeney – ‘Concrete’
August 25, 2011
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Sunny Sweeney’s “From A Table Away” hitting country radio’s top 10 gave me a ray of hope for my chosen genre’s future. The initial stalling of the second single release from her Concrete album made me realize just how fickle commercial Nashville really is. Still, artists like Sweeney and the like-minded Miranda Lambert with her Pistol Annies in tow make me think it’s the woman’s time to roar and turn the charts on their heads. Country’s newest crop of leading men seem content to continue playing a game of redneck one-upmanship while the women leapfrog ahead of them artistically. I remember this same gender stagnation in the mid-90s, just before a slew of female country singers became across-the-board superstars and sold a combined 14 gazillion records. If history repeats itself, her latest set has Sunny Sweeney poised to be in the front-running pack of the next country female commercial onslaught.
The steel guitar-infused “From A Table Away” gave Sweeney her first top 10 hit with a lyric that finds the other woman opening her eyes to the realities of her situation when she spots her love interest in an intimate night out with is wife. Several of the album’s songs were inspired by the singer’s divorce, and none more than the shuffling “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving”, and it is currently sitting inside the top 40 as the second single. Where “From A Table Away” serves as a coming-to-terms for the other woman, “Amy” is an honest confrontation between the two women in a man’s life, and is by-and-far the best account of this situation by song I’ve heard. While the hit single told the tale from a somewhat-shocked other woman’s point of view, “Amy” finds the other woman standing her ground. With all her self-assured Texas demureness, Sweeney sings of knowingly loving another woman’s man. Her realization of the situation is right on – “If you’d look right at him you might see, he loves you he never loved me“, and even though she’s letting go without a fight she coyly adds “if you don’t love him Amy, let him leave“. Despite Amy’s feelings about it all, Sunny’s believability as a woman scorned and the acoustic and steel guitar fill of the track make me root for the cheaters to prosper. Country radio needs all three of these songs to make a big impact on their charts.
“Mean As You” kicks hard with its continuous drum track, but above that you hear a kick-ass lyric about another steel magnolia who just wants you to know all the things she might do if she were as low-down as the man who done her wrong. As much steel as drums and more of that Texas twang, combined with the biting cleverness of the lyrics, make it another winner. Another contender for mainstream appeal is the the more contemporary “It Wrecks Me”, though it’s a weaker plot and it’s just more final-single material than filler.
The prevailing theme here is one of roadhouse partying and a good time, though not all the results are as satisfying. The punchy “Drink Myself Single” wouldn’t sound at all out-of-place on Gretchen Wilson’s second or third album release, while “Worn Out Heart” with its rhythm-driven framing and cheeky lyric falls flat of its reach. Likewise, the very contemporary-leaning “Fall For Me” finds the singer asserting a kind of arrogant confidence that is uncharacteristic of the rest of the album.
In a perfect world, every female album to come out of Nashville would feature this slathering of traditional instrumentation amid recurring themes of cheating, drinking, broken hearts, all delivered by Sweeney’s charming earthy twang.
Buy it at amazon.