Only one Austin-area musician who started with a Sunday night residency at the Poodle Dog Lounge ended up onstage at the Grand Ole Opry. The beer dive on Burnet Road recently shuttered and reopened drastically revamped under another name. Meanwhile, Sunny Sweeney has now appeared on "The Show That Made Country Music Famous" 42 times and counting.
While rarely performing locally, the singer has called Central Texas home since the mid-Nineties while pursuing music full time since 2004. She's just issued her third album, Provoked (revisit "Texas Platters" Oct. 31), a blend of influences including Loretta Lynn and Kasey Chambers, two exceptional storytellers who bend to the needs of the song. Sweeney's classic country twang and sharp wit take you from rock bottom to glorious self-determination with the in-your-face "You Don't Know Your Husband" ("like I do"), pained relationship requiem "My Bed," and Texas-sized stomp "Everybody Else Can Kiss My Ass."
"I haven't played in Austin in so long," she admits. "I've only played here three or four times because I've been on the road a lot. I'd play Austin every day if I could."
Lead single "Bad Girl Phase," co-written by chart-topping songwriter Brandy Clark – one of two songs on Provoked Sweeney didn't write – recently crowned the Texas Music Chart. That makes her the first solo female artist to reach No. 1 on the radio survey in over a decade. The glass ceiling of bro-country betrays a crack.
Nashville, where Provoked was recorded, currently enjoys an influx of female talent much like Austin (see "The Big Picture," Nov. 28). There, Sweeney fits right in with the likes of relative newcomers like Clark, Ashley Monroe, Kacey Musgraves, and Angaleena Presley. At the head of that class you'll find Miranda Lambert, who invited Sweeney to open a few shows next spring.
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