Sunny Sweeney

In the mid-1980s, Dwight Yoakum emerged and reminded us that the Bakersfield sound was the driving subgenre of country personified by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. 2006 has Texan Sunny Sweeney to remind us of the gusto of Lone Star honky tonk. In less enlightened times, smug city folk would've labeled Sweeney a "hillbilly singer" — I like to think she'd take it as a compliment. She bears no resemblance to the current crop of mainstream country kittens — Sweeney has a distinctive, natural, rural twang recalling Skeeter Davis, Iris Dement, and pre-Nine to Five Dolly Parton, and she wears her heart on her sleeve for all to see. Fame is rich with an immediacy born of snappy tempos, cleanly crackling guitars, the finely honed wails of a pedal steel guitar, and unshakable yearning. The songs are an all-killer, no-filler mix of originals and well-chosen covers, sung with an earnestness and spunky fervor the likes of Shania 'n' Faith will never know. Get two copies — one for yourself, one for a friend.

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