Second Look: Sunny Sweeney’s “Concrete”

Usually folks start the New Year by looking forward.  I’m starting 2012 by looking back, a “second look” if you will, at Sunny Sweeney’s “Concrete.”

The album’s been out for more than four months now and has received a mountain of critical acclaim.  All of the praise is well-deserved as the release is as solid as its name and was one of the best of 2011.

Once you hear the very first note out of the Texas native’s mouth, there’s no mistaking you’re listening to country.  Fact is, from top to bottom, this album is 100% pure country.  That’s worth noting because more and more country albums are including songs that play as pop or rock.  Not so with “Concrete.”  But would you expect anything else from an artist who performs with a guitar that features autographs from Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard  and Little Jimmy Dickens?  Plus, there’s the Haggard tribute “Mama Tried” tatoo on her right wrist.  That’s literally wearing her allegiance to country on her sleeve.

By now you should be familiar with at least two of the album’s ten tracks.  “From A Table Away” served as the lead-off single, of sorts.  It originally appeared on a self-titled five-track EP and landed Sweeney her first Top 10 hit.  Next came “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving,”  which Sweeney says tells the story of her own marriage that had been falling apart for some time and eventually ended in divorce.   It’s an honest and unflinching look at a love gone stale, but for reasons unknown, it failed to find the same chart success.

“Drink Myself Single” is Sweeney’s current single.  This is the one song on the album that gives us a taste of her incredible sense of humor.  Before focusing full-time on her music, Sweeney worked in improv comedy.  If you want a good laugh, follow her on Twitter (@gettinsweenered).  Blake Shelton may be the undisputed king of country comedy on Twitter, but we soon might crown Sweeney as queen.

The Big Machine Records artist co-wrote eight songs on the album and in doing so, she shared a lot of her personal pain (like with “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving”).  The open, honest and sometimes blunt way she paints her songs is a major part of her appeal.  Life’s not perfect, but the way Sweeney presents it darn near is.

Sweeney spent part of last year touring with Brad Paisley and his “H2O: Wetter & Wilder” tour.  She’s yet to announce tour plans for 2012.  Once she does, do yourself a favor and see if she’s playing anywhere near you.  In the meantime, give “Concrete” a second, third or fortieth look and listen.

Rating:  9/10

Check out:  “The Old Me”  and “Helluva Heart”

(Side note:  Sorry guys, but Sunny’s no longer single.  She and Texas police officer Jeff Helmer got married in Las Vegas on November 11th.  That’s right — 11-11-11.  She’s since commemorated the union in ink.  She got “XI” tattooed on her bicep.  That’s one anniversary that’ll be hard to forget!)