You may know Sunny Sweeney from her 2010 hit “From a Table Away,” which I loved. She’s often compared to Miranda Lambert because of her East Texas twang and tendency to raise hell against men who wrong her. I actually see a lot of similarities to Kacey Musgraves with her wit and cynicism toward small town life. On Provoked, Sweeney carves out her own unique identity in one of the most dynamic albums of the year.
The album isn’t likely to produce another top 10 single now that she is no longer signed with Big Machine Records, but it’s definitely interesting. Sweeney has an undeniably country sound yet manages to maintain an appeal to mainstream listeners. There’s truly something for everyone, whether it’s the stomping single “Bad Girl Phase” (co-written by Brandy Clark) or the scornful “Uninvited.”
The most intriguing subplot here is Sweeney’s transition into a new marriage, with some songs looking back and others living in the present. The only real outlier is “You Don’t Know Your Husband,” an older cheating song of hers that finally made the cut for a record. It would have been cool to intentionally arrange the songs to convey this story.
While “Bad Girl Phase” is climbing the Texas Music Chart, the standout track here is “Carolina on the Line.” This slow ballad describes the painful but ultimately beneficial act of ending a one-sided relationship. Sweeney explores the wisdom of her decision and forces you to consider both perspectives.
So before you say ‘I love you’
I need to say goodbye
I know you’re hangin’ on
So I’m hangin’ up
Before you change my mind
Other recommendations include the bouncing “Backhanded Compliment” and “My Bed,” a beautiful duet with Will Hoge. No songs are what you would call “automatic skips” — just don’t expect many to jump out at you as particularly impressive. Still, Sunny Sweeney really pours her heart out on this album, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Rating: 3.75 / 5
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