Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Sunny Sweeney

  • Concrete [Republic Nashville, 2011] *
  • Provoked [Thirty Tigers, 2014] A-
  • Trophy [Thirty Tigers, 2017] A-
  • Live at the Machine Shop [Aunt Daddy, 2020] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Concrete [Republic Nashville, 2011]
Bad old girl makes good ("Amy," "Drink Myself Single") *

Provoked [Thirty Tigers, 2014]
Another gal gives bros the finger. With Sweeney among the creators of 11 of these 13 songs and Angaleena Presley, Ashley Monroe, and Brandy Clark all helping out for a track or two, the former Republic Nashville wannabe turns her whole album into what Clark or Jessie Jo Dillon or maybe it was Shannon Wright thought to call "a bad girl phase." And by the way, how marketable a singer is this Natalie Hemby chick with her name on "Used Cars," which explains her preference for previously owned men? And how about Connie Harrington or even Brett Beavers with their co-writes on a finale called "Everybody Else Can Kiss My Ass," which rhymes with "So if you're with me, raise your glass/Here's to working class"? A-

Trophy [Thirty Tigers, 2017]
Last time bad girl was her play, and she was funny, feisty, and sexy about it. This time it's more bad girl's progress, bad girl gets older, in there. She begins by getting smashed at a bar and daring the guy she goes home with to come up with a better bad idea. But soon she's off those pills, and then it transpires that the "Bottle by My Bed" she craves comes with milk and a rubber nipple. Proceed to "Grow Old With Me"--next line: "I'll keep you young forever"--and a title tune in which a proud trophy wife skewers his ex with the perfect putdown: "I'm his trophy for putting up with you." Why am I not surprised that these last three, the finest songs on an album filled with good ones, are Lori McKenna cowrites? "Grow Old With Me" to "Trophy" bears the mark of someone who's looked at marriage from many sides now. And "Bottle by My Bed" is an infertility song--a rare thing, as I happen to know--brought to fruition by a mother of five. A-

Live at the Machine Shop [Aunt Daddy, 2020]
"Hooked on the power of a song," as her new "Poet's Prayer" puts it on the way to "Things we missed back home/Are never lost on me/Kids growing up, funerals/Anniversaries," the baddest woman in country music noticed herself pushing 44, and with her second marriage behind her decided the pandemic was just the right time for a live album in a disused Austin studio. It opens with her bad new "Tie Me Up," about how bondage is one thing and staying for breakfast quite another, and before she's done specifies funeral arrangements in lieu of the inevitable "early grave": "Put my body in a boxcar and send me to the other side." Many musicians see the drawbacks of the troubadour life. Sweeney inhabits its tragic dimension while joking around about it. A-