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True to her Texas honky-tonk roots, Sunny Sweeney has never been a singer of what you’d call “soft” country songs — the kind you might turn to for easy comfort and or quiet Sunday afternoons with the family. Hell, you can tell just by the titles of her first two albums — Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame and Concrete — that she reaches straight for the hard stuff. So when this woman sees fit to name her third album Provoked, you better believe she’s not about to start playing coy now. No, this is where the real hurtin’ starts, and Sweeney’s showing no mercy … least of all to herself.
On Provoked—produced by Luke Wooten—Sweeney’s singing it all from first-hand experience, and she’s not always singing from the perspective of an innocent victim, either. The album embodies the same mix of toughness and vulnerability that appealed to so many fans of Sweeney’s first two albums, but with an added level of tested-by-fire resilience that deepens the music’s emotional resonance. The songs range from the heart-on-sleeve honesty of “My Bed,” “Uninvited” and “Sunday Dress” to the raucous barroom rave-ups of “You Don’t Know Your Husband” and “Everybody Else Can,” and follow Sweeney’s turbulent and unabashedly personal roller coaster ride from reckless abandon (“Bad Girl Phase”; co-written by Brandy Clark) to yearning (“Find Me”) to candid self-reflection (“Second Guessing”) to the bittersweet defeat (“Carolina on the Line”) to, finally, the healing embrace of happiness (“Used Cars”).
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