Friday may be the most important day of Sunny Sweeney’s career. In addition to appearing at Knuckleheads, the country artist is releasing her fourth album, “Trophy.” It’s a make-or-break project for the artistically audacious but commercially marginal performer.
Sweeney, 40, can no longer compete with country ingénues like Maren Morris. Yet it’s not too late for Sweeney to become firmly established as an essential Americana-oriented artist in the mode of Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson.
If “Trophy” fails to find a sizable audience, at least Sweeney will have gone down swinging. The Houston native has maintained an uncompromising vision beginning with her excellent 2006 debut album “Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame.” Like country legends Kitty Wells, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton, Sweeney boldly addresses the challenges faced by American women with stealthily subversive songs.
On the heartbreaking “Bottle by My Bed,” Sweeney sighs that “right now our mortgage is the only thing that’s due” as she pines for an unborn child. “Drink Myself Single” is among her songs that reverse gender stereotypes. She playfully attempts to reconcile her attraction to a man with a radically different lifestyle in “But You Like Country Music.”
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Admirers supporting Sweeney on her big day may opt to keep a safe distance from the stage. She warns on the flirtatious “Better Bad Idea” that “I won’t bite unless you want me to.”
Tickets to the Friday concert at Knuckleheads are $12 in advance at knuckleheadskc.com.
Concert previews by Bill Brownlee
Special to Ink