Sunny Sweeney - Concrete
By: Matt Bjorke
Much like 70s R&B icon Bill Withers, Sunny Sweeney got her start as a professional musician later than the typical singer/songwriter does. Sunny was in her mid-late twenties when she got her start while Bill was 32 and both had no real idea how to play an instrument at their starting points. Sunny eventually learned guitar and thanks to a lifetime of listening to classic country artists, Sunny firmly developed a style and sound that can’t be mistaken for anything but country music.
After self-releasing Heartbreaker’s Hall Of Fame, a collection of mostly classic country songs, Sunny was discovered by Scott Borchetta and she was signed to Big Machine Records. Rather than push Sunny into doing a record before she felt completely comfortable, the masterful CEO gave her room to grow into what we have before us here, Sunny’s debut album Concrete.
Traditional-minded yet thoroughly modern, Concrete feels like the perfect title for Sunny as the album is building the walls of a neo-classic country album from the traditional country music foundation set by her last record. The punchy, twangy guitars and sawin’ fiddle of “Drink Myself Single” immediately gives rise to this notion while lead single “From A Table Away” is as enchanting a listen as it was the first time I heard it around a year ago. The production from Brett Beavers simply enhances the nuanced and emotive vocal from Sunny as she sings about being the other woman in a romantic triangle who comes to the realization that he’s never gonna leave his wife for her.
Current single – and finally Top 40 as of the writing of this review – “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving” has a haunting melody backing up Sunny’s clear discussion about the painful ‘it is what it is’ relationship that really needs to come to an end for both people to be truly happy. One of country music’s most distinctive songwriters these days is Lori McKenna and on “The Old Me,” she discusses an old side to a person’s personality and it’s the kind of attitude-filled song that has helped make Miranda Lambert’s career and it’s great to have more than one kick-ass and take-names sort of female vocalist out there these days (especially since country radio continues to refuse to play The Dixie Chicks).
If I was asked to pick the song I thought would help Sunny break to an even higher level, I’d say that song is “Fall For Me”, one of only three songs not co-written by Sunny Sweeney on the disc. It also serves as the final track on Concrete. There’s a strong story in this song of a woman willing a man to fall in love with her. The tune, written by Lisa Carver, Jaida Dreyer and Carolyn Dawn Johnson (of “Complicated” fame) just sounds cool all the way around.
“Amy” feels like the other half of the story to “From A Table Away” as Sunny talks directly to the wife of the cheatin’ man and partially apologizes – only if Amy will promise to ‘love him like you should and if you don’t love him, “Amy let him leave.’ “Helluva Heart” is one of the outright ‘rockin’ ‘tude songs on the record and if forced to compare to anyone, I’d compare it to a vintage Terri Clark track from the 1990s.
When everything is said and done, it’s hard not to fall for Sunny Sweeney’s Concrete and it proves that good things come to those that wait and that nothing can keep a true artistic soul from following their muse, no matter when they start on that journey.