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Sunny Sweeney

EP – 2011 (Republic Nashville)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Sunny Sweeney

In the past, Sunny Sweeney has professed herself to be a lover of "old school country." Her debut release was shot through with that sensibility; based on this EP preview of her upcoming full-length, that is no longer the case, for good or ill. But then, to expect anything else would be naive. Sweeney is now on a major label, where success is measured in chart position and units moved; the fact that not one of the three singles from her first record, "Heartbreakers Hall of Fame," charted was presumably all the evidence needed to indicate that a change in approach was in order. The change - a move towards a mainstream sound and, more distressing, some serious dialing down of the delicious, natural twang in Sweeney's singing voice - is on display here.

No question, this is still country music - all five of the songs here are either hurtin', cheatin' or both - but it's been Nashville'd to familiar effect, with guitars screaming more than twanging, and steel guitar relinquishing its dominance to relentless, pounding drums pushed up front in the mix. No question, too, on its own terms this hardly qualifies as ordinary. Sweeney is still writing strong songs - current single From a Table Away and rueful, other-side-of-the-aisle ballad Amy are particularly sharp in the pictures they paint - and it's still Sunny Sweeney singing, even if it's a less twangy-sounding Sweeney. But after hearing what she was capable of on her first record, and how damn good she was at it, this is bound to be a disappointment to anyone who shares the singer's love of that old-school honky-tonk sound.