The East Texas twang in Sunny Sweeney's voice takes us back to Loretta Lynn's heyday, back before regional differences had been homogenized out of country music. On her debut album Heartbreaker's Hall of Fame, the Longview native drawls her way Iris Dement -style through some classic left-side-of-Nashville country songs and does it without straying even once over into the pop-laced crap that has turned the female side of mainstream country music into a Revlon eyeliner-and-lipstick ghetto.
Sweeney's duet with Jim Lauderdale on Keith Sykes's "Lavender Blue" has cracked a number of Texas country radio playlists, and her covers of Lauderdale's "Refresh My Memory" and the swinging "Please Be San Antone" nail it. She also shines on Audry Aulds' "Next Big Nothing," Libby Bosworth's "East Texas Pines" (which Houstonians will recall from any Hollisters gig they ever attended), and Thom Schuyler's classic ode to scuffling songwriters, "16th Avenue."
Her own songs, like the title track and "Ten Years Pass," aren't quite up to the cut of her covers, but they shows lots of promise. With her hot little four-piece Austin band, Sweeney should fit right in at the honkiest honkytonk in Houston. -- William Michael Smith
Sweeney (who is managed by John Lomax III, father of Houston Press music editor John Nova Lomax) performs tonight at Blanco's, 3406 West Alabama. Call 713-439-0072 for information.