In Married Alone, Sunny Sweeney delivers a powerful collection of songs that exudes sexual empowerment, bleeds loneliness and searches for romantic optimism with a road-weary distant stare. From one-night-stands to hope blunted by experience, the Houston native enlists an A-list team of collaborators as she offers 12 songs that, notably, steamroll long-standing patriarchal mores. Sweeney is too independent to be a Music Row robot, and too talented for that not to propel her forward.
Sweeney’s fifth studio album is one steeped in country. But the lyrics of opening track “Tie Me Up” refuse to conform to country music’s know-your-place comfort zone. Sweeney tells the story of a woman self-emancipated from congeniality nearly as boldly as Cardi B and Megan Thee Stalliion did in their sex-positive 2020 pop anthem “W.A.P.” In Married Alone, Sweeney boot-stomps puritanical dogma that for centuries has reliably cleaved women from their sexuality. Sweeney isn’t playing that game.
I know you’re hittin’ on me, what you got in mind?
This ain’t going any further than tonight
You can tie me up, you can take my time
You can tattoo your name on this little black heart of mine
I’ll treat you like I’m stayin’, but I’m going to get around
You can tie me up, but baby you can’t tie me down
Barrel-chested Texas troubadour Paul Cauthen and longtime collaborator Beau Bedford produced Married Alone, undoubtedly a contender for heartbreak album of the year, if there were such a category. So much so that she brought in the King of Broken Hearts himself, Jim Lauderdale, to sing harmony on the album’s fourth track, “Someday You’ll Call My Name.” The result is a rollicking runaway boulder crashing into the ego of a cheating former lover. And Vince Gill brings his unmistakable high harmony to the record’s title cut. “Married Alone” is a slow-waltzing number where Gill and Sweeney’s vocals convey loneliness even more than the pedal steel that backs them.
Regina McCrary (the McCrary Sisters) lends her vocals to “Wasting One on You,” a mid-tempo waltzing tale of a lovelorn woman who instigates a bar hookup on the off chance that it may develop into a relationship. Doug Corcoran’s on-point horns and Bedford’s Hammond B3 infuse soul into the let’s-get-out-of-here narrative. While Waylon Payne and Kendell Marvel penned “Fool Like Me,” Sweeney’s vocals shine in this radio-ready cut, if only country radio were inclined to spin a slow-dance gem performed by a fully actualized, talented, independent female artist entering into what may be her creative prime.