Recommended Concerts: Sunny Sweeney with Ward Davis at Southgate House Revival (Aug. 3)

One of Country music's finer new traditionalists comes to Newport on the "High on Honky Tonk" tour.

click to enlarge Sunny Sweeney - Photo: Christina Feddersen
Photo: Christina Feddersen
Sunny Sweeney
Along with the likes of Lucinda Williams, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Elizabeth Cook and Ashley Monroe, Sunny Sweeney represents a new traditionalism in Country music, one that adheres to the foundational heritage of the genre while embracing contemporary modes of musical expression and lyrical viewpoint. Over the past dozen years, Sweeney has recorded four well-received full-length albums and an EP that made inroads across a broad spectrum of sales charts and attracted fans in a variety of stylistic camps.

A native of Houston, Texas, Sweeney obtained her degree in public relations from Southwest Texas University in Austin, a process that was punctuated by an important period of reflection in New York City. After graduation, Sweeney remained in Austin, assembled a band and began playing locally and regionally, which eventually led to the recording of her 2006 self-released debut album, Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame. That album tweaked the radar of indie label Big Machine, which had formed the year before in order to sign Taylor Swift; they inked a contract with Sweeney and reissued Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame, releasing a trio of regional singles that did well in her home state.

In 2009, Sweeney became the first artist signed to Republic Nashville, a label formed by Big Machine and Universal Republic Records. Sweeney released “From a Table Away,” her first charting single, in 2010; nine months later, it hit the top 10 of Billboard’s Country Singles. Her sophomore album, Concrete, was released in late summer of 2011, featuring primarily original songs Sweeney had co-written with a variety of renowned songwriters, including Radney Foster, Tim Nichols and Monty Holmes. She had two more minor hit singles from Concrete, including “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving,” her co-write with Foster, before leaving Big Machine in 2012.

In 2013, Sweeney signed with Thirty Tigers, and the following year saw the release of the single “Bad Girl Phase” and her third album Provoked, which showed an even deeper and more vulnerable aspect of her songwriting. The album was critically hailed, receiving an “A-” from the always-tough music critic legend Robert Christgau, and it hit the Top 20 of Billboard’s Country Albums chart.

Sweeney’s most recent album, last year’s excellent Trophy, fared better on the Folk and Indie charts, and featured a quartet of co-writes with Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Lori McKenna; Sweeney had covered McKenna’s “The Old Me” on Concrete. From the very beginning, Sweeney has gone from strength to strength, creating increasingly great albums and becoming a supremely confident stage performer. Ray-Ban may not make shade bright enough to cut the glare of Sunny Sweeney’s future.

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