The biggest takeaway from SXSW 2017 will be that for the first time since the very inception of the idea over 30 years ago, the annual music gathering experienced a palpable draw down in attendance and industry participation to a degree that it fundamentally changed many of the dynamics and rigors one must endure to attend.
For most artists, their careers start off by driving around in vans to club shows across the country, and if they’re lucky perhaps they graduate to a bus sometime down the road. Most artists start by making some noise in their home state, and then maybe hope to garner the attention of a national audience. For Sunny Sweeney, the arc has been nearly the opposite.
“I don’t even know you yet, but I know I love you,” Sweeney sings in such a specified honesty that its hard to handle, and hard to not believe. It’s lines like this that even if you do have kids, or find yourself on the opposite side of the gene pool from being able to bear children, you can still put yourself in those shoes.
She didn’t choose the title Puxico for the way it popped for focus group audiences. It’s the name of her less than 1,000 population hometown in southeastern Missouri that sets the scene for an album that feels devoutly personal, humble in approach, and eager to express things a professional songwriter just can’t with total fulfillment through the voices of others.
Just what 2017 has in store for us in the country music department remains to be seen. But we do know about what to expect in the release department for at least the first quarter of the year, while rumors abound about the big projects that could come to light later in 2017. Here’s a run down of what we know, what we think we know, and what we would like to believe.
Aaron Watson, Ags Connolly, Alison Krauss, Casey James Prestwood, Charlie Worsham, Chris Knight, Chris Stapleton, Colter Wall, Curtis McMurtry, Dale Watson, Dan Auerbach, Dave Cobb, George Jones, Guy Clark, Holly Williams, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Jaime Wyatt, Jason Isbell, JB Beverley, Justin Townes Earle, Marty Stuart, MOderna Mal, Nikki Lane, Old Crow Medicine Show, Otis Gibbs, Phoebe Hunt, Ray Benson, Ray Scott, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, Rhiannon Giddens, Robbie Fulks, Scott H. Biram, Shinyribs, Son Volt, Steve Earle, Sunny Sweeney, The Gibson Brothers, The Sadies, The Secret Sisters, Tift Merritt, Valerie June, Whitney Rose
You only have to pay mild attention to Miranda Lambert’s music career to know her support of true American songwriters is far from skin deep. Her latest record The Weight of These Wings has a monster list of contributing songwriters, and she’s been known to get a wild hair and drive for miles to see someone like John Moreland play a dive bar.
For those fed up with the political system, scared to vote either way for two of the most unlikable Presidential candidates in recent memory, voting with trepidation, not voting in spite, or just plain wanting this whole election thing to end and hoping that somehow the United States can find a modicum of healing after it is all over…
Brennen Leigh, Canned Heat, Hayes Carll, Hellbound Glory, Jackson Taylor and the Sinners, Kinky Friedman, Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, Leroy Virgil, Merle Haggard, Peter Dawson, Ronnie Dunn, Sunny Sweeney, Tom Waits, Waylon Jennings
Right now, Texas and Oklahoma is being robbed of its female talent from Nashville and the two coasts. And these women are regularly sucked up into a system that absconds with their creative freedom, sexualizes their image, and drops them unceremoniously whenever their commercial viability is perceived to be spent.
American Aquarium, Aubrie Sellers, Billy Joe Shaver, Brennen Leigh, Bri Bagwell, Courtney Patton, Hot Club of Cowtown, Jamie Lin Wilson, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, Kacey Musgraves, Lee Ann Womack, Maren Morris, Medicine Stone, Miranda Lambert, Randy Rogers Band, Ryan Engleman, Samantha Crain, Shane Smith and the Saints, Sister C, Stoney LaRue, Sunny Sweeney, The Quebe Sisters, Turnpike Troubadours
Being willing to go where a song takes you is the challenge in the heart of every music lover. Hopefully one of these songs released in 2015 will take you some place you want to be, or somewhere you’ve never been before. These songs were selected on their own merit, not from the strength of the artist or album from where they came.
Brennen Leigh, Cody Jinks, Dawes, Eric Church, Eric Paslay, Evan Felker, James McMurtry, JB Beverley, John Moreland, Justin Townes Earle, Kacey Musgraves, Love and Theft, Mo Pitney, Randy Rogers, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Sunny Sweeney, Turnpike Troubadours, Wade Bowen
Tribute records, just like compilations and live recordings, can be a tough sell and a tedious listen. However, by smartly selecting songs that are worthy of being heard again, but are not the obvious “Greatest Hits” of Lefty’s legacy, Brennen avoids the common pitfall of tribute records. And making her renditions that much more compelling and unique is the fact that she’s a woman singing these songs.
Brennen Leigh, Brennen Leigh Sings Lefty Frizzell, Brian Kremer, Cris Burns, Jenn Miori, Lee Ann Womack, Lefty Frizzell, Lisa Pankratz, Noel McKay, Review, Roger Wallace, Rosie and the Ramblers, Selena Rosenblam, Sunny Sweeney, T Jerrod Bonta, The Carper Family
You can’t get away from the political divisiveness these days, and the issue only promises to get worse as the United States Presidential election proper looms large in the not so distant future. But that’s what’s so great about music. It’s a world away from the rancor of political discord. Or as Brennen Leigh and Sunny Sweeney say, “A love of country music conquers all.”
The dream of many of the aspiring country music artists moving to Nashville in droves every year is to become a big star signed to a major label. Of course the reality is this dream comes true for so few, and even fewer who actually do get signed attain superstar status. However for some artists, as soon as they get that major label deal, their next goal becomes to get out, or to go independent.
Adam Hood is not a native of Texas or Oklahoma, but he is an honorary member of the Texas country scene if there ever was one. And now that he’s officially called Frank Liddel’s Carnival Records quits, he’s back releasing his music independently and calling his own shots. Only appropriate then that he would release an album that is strikingly personal in a very palpable and meaningful manner.
Adam Hood, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Frank Liddell, Jason Eady, Lee Ann Womack, Leon Russell, Miranda Lambert, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Review, Roots and Branches, Stoney LaRue, Sunny Sweeney, Tavern In The Gruene, Welcome to the Big World, Will Hoge, Willie Nelson
Sunny Sweeney is an east Texas girl at her core, and no matter what Nashville does, it’s never possible to completely quiet those jangling spurs or smooth out that accent. She very much fits that mold of the Texas country artist that got big enough to be recognized by Music Row, but always felt just a little too authentic to do much more than experience that world from the outside looking in.
Big Machine Records, Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, Lucinda Williams, Miranda Lambert, Provoked, Randy Weeks, Review, Scott Borchetta, Sturgill Simpson, Sunny Sweeney, Taylor Swift, Thirty Tigers, Will Hoge
The virtual disappearance of female country music stars on American radio is a dilemma that has now stretched out for nearly half a decade. Now the senior director of music programming at SiriusXM is looking to try and do something about the problem and hopefully create interest around some of country music’s undiscovered and worthy female talent.
Angaleena Presley, Brandy Clark, Carrie Underwood, Chase Rice, Cole Swindell, First Aid Kit, Florida Georgia Line, Fresh Female Voices, John Marks, Kelleigh Bannen, Leah Turner, Miranda Lambert, SiriusXM, Sunny Sweeney, Taylor Swift