Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
unny Sweeney has gone the big label route and even earned a hit with "From a Table Away," but truth be told, she's better off without the baggage of the bigs, especially given the consistent quality and musical vision that was so clearly and admirably on display on this evening.
When the East Texas native started her career, she was traditional country, but succumbed to the lure of a major label (Big Machine Label Group in this case) only to see her lose her musical identity.
That certainly is no longer the case. One only needed listen to the covers that Sweeney offered before a crowd of about 75 people to understand. On her third song of the 90-mintue set, she turned in a worthy take on the late Don Williams' classic "Tulsa Time." Later, she took on Waylon Jennings' "Rainy Day Woman." And a little bit less country, but still fitting where she's at, Sweeney covered the Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved."
Sweeney, of course, played a slew of her own songs, including a few new cuts ("I Drink Well With Others" was a solid honky tonker). If wondering where traditional country artists have gone, Sweeney provided the answer. There's no escaping her Texas roots as she pointed out when she tried acting in New York City years ago and just wasn't going to lose her accent.
Since this was Texas-based music, there was no surprise that there were a lot of songs about drinking and heartache. Sweeney's most touching song hands down remains "Bottle by My Bed," which she co-wrote with local singer/songwriter supreme Lori McKenna.
The song deals with the heartache of fertility issues, and that bottle isn't one filled with alcohol either. It's a song that resonated personally with Sweeney and is filled with great lyrics.
Sweeney may have good vocal chops, but she certainly did not pull this off alone. Her tour de force was guitarist Harley Husbands, who put a lot of twang and tremolo into his licks time and time again.
Hiding a bit behind his cowboy hat, Husband was understated in his playing, but he was a concert changer.
Then again, it helps to have someone with a good set of vocal chords and songs to match.
Recording new material, Sweeney said afterwards that she would release her music through Thirty Tigers, a small Nashville-based outfit and home to many worthy musicians. That's the right fit for Sweeney. She was never really right for what was coming out of Nashville. Staying true to her musical outlook, as she did tonight, has paid off in spades - at least when it comes to integrity.
There still is something to be said for that.