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Music

Music Review: Sunny Sweeney's 'Provoked'

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Sunny Sweeney was playing for tips in her Native Texas several years ago when she was discovered by a Nashville record label - the same one that discovered Taylor Swift. Sweeney hit the Billboard charts in 2011 and toured with some of country music's biggest stars. As her star rose, her personal life fell apart. She chronicles it all on her third album, titled "Provoked." Meredith Ochs has this review.

MEREDITH OCHS, BYLINE: Sunny Sweeney has all the right stuff for country stardom - a Texas pedigree, a heart-melting voice, stunning looks and the ability to seem both tough and vulnerable.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY BED")

SUNNY SWEENEY: (Singing) I don't know you. I don't miss you when you're gone. You don't know me.

OCHS: Her major label debut gave her a top 10 hit, but the music didn't really fit. And she soon parted ways with the label. On her new album, she sounds more like herself - the artist who was inspired by classic honky-tonk and country music. This track, a duet with singer Will Hoge, is an achingly intimate portrait of the disintegration of her first marriage.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY BED")

SWEENEY AND HOGE: (Singing) You're just sleeping in my bed. We're both wishing we were anywhere else instead. All the love we had is dead. Now you're just sleeping in my bed.

OCHS: Sunny Sweeney turned to crowd-sourced funding to make her latest album, and every note is a confirmation that she got to make exactly the record she wanted to. She cracks contemporary country music's patina by writing her songs from the inside out. On this song, Sweeney brings you along to a party. But all you feel is her confusion.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNINVITED")

SWEENEY: (Singing) But I didn't know what I'd done to make whispers move from lips to ears faster than I could catch on, make everybody stare through me like I wasn't here, yeah, and wishing that I was gone. Don't know what I did wrong, but when I walked through the crowd they all divided. Somebody could've told me I was uninvited.

OCHS: Only at the song's end do you realize that everyone in the room knows that Sweeney's ex is there - everyone but her.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNINVITED")

SWEENEY: (Singing) Why didn't they tell me you were here?

OCHS: Sunny Sweeney's new album tells her story, a chronicle of divorce, despair and finding happiness in new love. Much of it is delivered in contemplative ballads. But don't think that going through a lot of turmoil over the last few years has dampened her spirit in any way. Sweeney's got just as much brass and sass as ever. Her new songs may glisten with a touch of Nashville sheen. But her lyrics take you far beneath the surface. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.