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CD of the Week

March 22, 2007

I am weary from the controversy.

I refuse to keep arguing with people who ascribe certain beliefs to me, challenge me to defend those beliefs (the ones I never said I have) so they can dismiss me.

I will not let my anger ruin my Christian witness. I will not let my arrogance ruin my Christian witness. I will love those who would dismiss me.

So, a few deep breaths later, I’m gonna take a cue from Art Ruch and describe my CD of the week.

Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame by Sunny Sweeney

One fine day I’m in my car listening to X-Country on my XM radio and I hear this song called “East Texas Pines” by someone named Sunny Sweeney. My hand reaches for the volume knob. “Man, this is GREAT!” Then I reach for that middle button on my Inno – the one that lets me record the song so I can listen to it again later. It has just the right amount of rock and roll attitude, country twang and down-home Texas honesty. I loved it.

Then I heard (and, yes, recorded) “If I Could.” Faster, more rockin’, more country. “If I could pay all these bills with this git-tar, then I would pay my bills with some rock and roll.” Me too, Sunny, me too. The song was addictive. Listening to that song was like eating a Lay’s potato chip – couldn’t stop at just one. I listened to it over and over. I liked it even better than “East Texas Pines,” which is to say that I was hooked. I also heard her cover of “16th Avenue,” and so the album passed my test.

Willie’s rule: Once you have heard three really good songs from an album or artist you did not know before, you then have permission to purchase said album. Three good songs (and no duds) means that the money you spend on the album will not be wasted. Hear only two? Wait until you hear the third.

Sunny passed the three song rule. So I checked out Sunny’s website. Now it’s confession time. For the last year or so, my favorite music has been produced by females. All the guys are way too Toby Keith or just plain whiny. I don’t wanna listen to any “Who’s Yer Daddy” posturing or any wrist-slashing, gosh-this-teen-angst-is-too-much-to-take-and-live Emo. An awful lot of very talented women have avoided those traps and made some really good music. Give me some Lucinda Williams over that stuff any day. The confession – Sunny Sweeney makes great music but she is one more musician I like who is so pretty that I feel like I need to apologize to my wife for buying her album.

Kate: “This is really good music. Who is it?”
Will: “Sunny Sweeney. She’s new. I heard some of her stuff on XM and I had to get it.”
Kate: “Can I see the CD cover?”
Will: “Here.”
Kate: “She’s really pretty.”
Will: “Really? I hadn’t looked at the front cover. You’re prettier.”

Her website shows her wearing a Merle Haggard T-shirt. Haggard, who is in a two way tie with Cash for the greatest male country artist ever in my book, gives her real country credibility. Right now everybody is wearing Cash shirts. The Hag shirt, well that’s cool. She is also pictured with Dwight Yoakam and Shooter Jennings – cleverly placing herself among country artists rather than country stars. We know what audience she’s shooting for. She also duets with Jim Lauderdale for instant genuine alt-country hipster cred.

There’s not a bad song on the CD. No big power-ballad weddin’ song, no cliche-riddled “trying to hard to be country,” no Brooks & Dunn style ’80s Pop-Rock with a steel guitar to make it country. Just great songs, infectious melodies punctuated with twangy Telecasters and crying pedal steels. She even does justice to Iris DeMent’s wonderful “Mama’s Opry.”

Like Lucinda Williams, Sweeney understands country as white blues, an exercise in soulful honesty and truth-telling. Like Dwight Yoakam or Steve Earle, she sees nothing wrong with adding some aggressive elements of rock to her twang. Her vocal sound falls naturally somewhere between the Texas drawl of Natalie Maines and the raspy little-girl voice of Australian country sensation Kasey Chambers. It’s hard-core honky-tonk from an artist who identifies more with Loretta Lynn than Faith Hill. And success is well-deserved: “Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame” was originally an indie release and is now being distributed by a major label. I look forward to hearing what she does next!

If you like the video below, I recommend heading over to iTunes (like I did) or the local CD shop (wish there was one near me) and picking this one up!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Art permalink
    March 22, 2007 1:25 pm

    Have I started a trend? This CD of the Week thing could go viral:)

    Seriously, though, good for you for not getting too caught up in the controversies.

    I’ve never heard of Sweeney but I may check this out. Thanks!

  2. Will Deuel permalink
    March 22, 2007 1:34 pm


    You can hear long previews of every song by going to her CD Baby page.

  3. the reverend mommy permalink
    March 23, 2007 7:38 am

    I love what you said on the Methoblog. Preach it!

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