Country music is meant to come from the heart, full of passion and heartache that bring a tear to your eye or a smile to your face. While fun and silly songs have their place, country music is adult music full of adult themes. While it isn't required, it always helps if you live out the stories in these songs. Sunny Sweeney's life has been a country song. After going through a divorce and being dropped from her major label, Sunny Sweeney fought back the old fashioned way: with a pen and a guitar. The result is a incredibly personal album with love, regret, heartache, and some smiles. Provoked is easily among the strongest releases of the year and adds to Sunny's impressive resume.
"You don't know your husband, like you think you do. Girl I could tell you somethin' about the man you're married to" Sunny belts out on the opening track "You Don't Know Your Husband". If that doesn't tell you that this album is gonna be a kick-your-teeth-in country album, I don't know what does. The song tells the tale of a cheating husband with more wit and sass than "Amy" or "From A Table Away" did on her previous album Concrete. The breaking down of relationships is a constant theme throughout Provoked. In "Second Guessing", Sunny looks back on her mistakes with a mature attitude, noting how they led to where she is today. "Carolina On The Line", one of the album's best, also deals with struggling with a relationship, this time through distance. "My Bed" is probably the most straight-forward song on the album, dealing with a marriage a it crumbles. Will Hoge teams up to make the song a killer duet. "Sunday Dress" is another absolute stunner. The song is essentially a modern take on "Sunday Morning Comin' Down", but from half of a broken home rather than an addict.
The album is also full of fun moments and clever word weaving. "Used Cars" is a fresh take on the classic analogy of love to cars. "Find Me" is a great tender ballad that turns the table on her search for love. She's tired of looking for her love, so in turn, she tells him "Find Me". "Backhanded Compliment" is a really fun song that cleverly pokes fun at the slips of the tongue that people use that come across negative even with the best intentions. The song touches on a part of the genre that gets lost nowadays: silly songs. Because of the slop on the radio, silly songs get overlooked as poorly written or dumb. "Backhanded Compliment" is anything but dumb, but it is also funny and bouncy. "Front Row Seats" has the melody of a upbeat fun song, but the lyrics show something much deeper, as it criticizes the downward spiral of humanity while the world watches. "Can't Let Go" is a cover of the Lucinda Williams hit that she has been covering in her live shows for a while now. She does a great job of matching the intensity of the original and making it her own with her twangy vocals. "Bad Girl Phase" and "Everybody Else Can Kiss My Ass" are both fun country drinking songs that prove party songs don't have to be stupid. "Bad Girl Phase" has regret and lost love spun into the story (full "Bad Girl Phase" review here). "Everybody Else Can Kiss My Ass" is an ode to the working men and women much in the spirit of Merle Haggard. Sunny comes at it with more malice than Haggard, but she still captures the common man and woman's voices to perfection.
The best part about this album is that every song is a straight-up country song. Every. Single. Song. There's some modern country rockers, some classic weepers, and everything in between. Nothing on this album will be mistaken for anything but solid country gold. Sunny Sweeney has blossomed into one of the best country artists out there right now. It'll be a shame if some of these songs do not become big hits. Provoked is what country music is all about, and is an absolutely stellar album from start to finish. If you don't enjoy Provoked, you don't enjoy country music. Period. Thanks for keeping it country, Sunny!
Standout Tracks: "You Don't Know Your Husband", "My Bed", "Sunday Dress", "Carolina On The Line", "Can't Let Go", "Everybody Else Can Kiss My Ass"
"You Don't Know Your Husband"
"Carolina On The Line"
"Bad Girl Phase"