If Sunny Sweeney is a name you’ve never heard of, or maybe only know from that one top ten hit from a few years ago, “From a Table Away,” you should get to know her. Aside from that one hit, she has had little mainstream success but has gained significant recognition in the Texas scene, becoming the first woman to have back-to-back #1 singles on the Texas Music Chart in 2015.
Having enjoyed all three of her previous albums and especially loving the last two, concrete and Provoked, this was one of the 2017 releases I was most anticipating. Well, after listening to it, I can say Sunny Sweeney has delivered us another great record.
The album opener, “Pass the Pain,” is a real, honest look at drinking to cope with heartbreak. The narrator knows the consequences but still tells the bartender to do their job and keep the drinks coming. That theme of knowing the consequences permeates the album, making the lighthearted “better Bad Idea” and “Pills” fun moments because the consequences can’t be ignored. “Better Bad Idea” is a complete acknowledgement that various things such as getting drunk and high aren’t the best ideas, but that isn’t stopping the people in the song. “Pills” sees the narrator confronting an old friend about their previous addictions to well, pills, and wondering if that friend is still addicted. She freely admits to thinking about it all the time even after having been clean for years. Sunny Sweeney has a knack for making songs like this fun and honest. That lighthearted honesty makes the title track a highlight of the record. I heard “Trophy” two years ago when Sunny opened for Miranda Lambert, and I’ve been eager to see it on an album ever since. It’s about the ex-wife of Sunny’s husband calling her a trophy wife, to which she responds, “He’s got a trophy now for putting up with you.” This is one you really need to listen to; case in point, it stuck with me for two years.
As I said, Sunny Sweeney is adept at being honest in her writing, and that comes through on serious tracks as well. An understated highlight of the album is “Grow old With Me,” a love song in which she states, “If I had one regret it’s that I didn’t find you sooner” but asserts that “Love don’t give a damn about time” and is content to grow old with her lover. Another highlight of the record is “Bottle by my Bed,” a heartbreaking song about how much Sweeney longs for a baby, and how even though her friends who have children are jealous of her lifestyle, she would give it all up to have a family. This is the kind of honesty that country music should be embracing. This is an artist being vulnerable and sharing a part of herself with listeners through her music. Another vulnerable moment is the album closer, “Unsaid.” Here, Sweeney sings of all the things left unsaid between her and someone who has just died. She wishes she could have apologized and regrets that there isn’t any time left for such things. The stripped-back instrumentation on this song really allows Sunny to bring out the raw emotion of the lyrics. She also conveys that emotion well on the cover of Jerry Jeff Walker’s “I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight,” making it seem like her own.
Two songs that didn’t stand out for me as much are “Nothing Wrong with Texas” and “Why People Change.” The former has some nice fiddle and tells of all the great things about Texas. It’s elevated because it speaks of Sunny leaving before she realized how much she appreciated it, so it’s unique and once again honest, but even though it’s solid,, it’s another one of a thousand solid songs about Texas. I think this one will resonate with other listeners more than it did with me. The latter is another solid song about divorce and where the narrator and her ex are now, but again, it doesn’t stand out as much as some of the other tracks. Still, there’s not a bad song on this record, and none of it feels like filler either.
Once again, this is a great album from Sunny Sweeney. From the more traditional country tracks like “Pass the pain” to the more upbeat, Texas country offerings like “Pills,” production and instrumentation are definite high points of this record. Also, you will not want for fiddle and steel, so that is a bonus. Even more than that, though, the lyrics set this album apart. Trophy is filled with honest, clever songwriting, and it should be noted that Sweeney had a hand in writing eight of these ten tracks, an accomplishment that is refreshing in music today. Fans of traditional country, Texas country, or just honest songwriting, go check out this album and Sunny Sweeney.