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HAAM Happy

A little girlie action at Nancy Coplin's big six-0

By Margaret Moser, 2:24PM, Mon. Mar. 31, 2008

Sunny Sweeney, heartbreaker.
Sunny Sweeney, heartbreaker.
photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Nancy Coplin’s such a smart cookie. For her 60th birthday, she threw herself a party Sunday evening at Antone’s to benefit the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. And boy howdy, did it rake in the bucks! The silent auction had me drooling over a two-night stay at the Driskill versus a collector’s selection of out-of-print Doug Sahm CDs. I kept upping bids and still lost out. But that was good for HAAM, because the house was packed, the ink pens were flowing on the bid sheets, and the Texas Heritage Songwriters Association surprised Nancy with a $10,000 donation to HAAM.

There’s not a whole lot in this town musically that Nancy hasn’t had a hand in. If you think of Austin as the “Live Music Capitol of the World,” Nancy was on the Music Commission that adopted it. She helped launch the Austin Music Network, books bands at the annual Armadillo Christmas Bazaar (as well as running the poster booth there), works with the Austin Blues Society, and is in charge of the live music bookings at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. That doesn’t even take into account her tireless fundraising efforts and support of organizations like HAAM.

Nancy and I have a warm friendship that started years ago when she kept me from going backstage at Antone’s because I “wasn’t on the list.” I got in anyway and my admiration for her grew. She’s also been a marvelous friend to other women in the business. But it’s her willingness to go the distance for musicians in Austin and help spearhead many other efforts like the upcoming Van Wilks benefit that makes her one of Austin’s MVPs.

The best part of the night was not the great company or the generosity of those attending but the music, of course. Headliners Marcia Ball and Delbert McClinton were joined by Stephen Bruton, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Rick Trevino, and Ruben Ramos, but the opening trifecta of Wendy Colonna, Sunny Sweeney, and Shelley King was the highlight.

I’ve long been a fan of Shelley King’s songwriting. Her big voice runs hard and fast through badass, roots-driven country rock compositions like “Call of My Heart,” also recorded by Toni Price. Being the first woman named as the State Musician of Texas doesn’t hurt either, for an Arkansas gal. Wendy Colonna and Sunny Sweeney I wasn’t prepared for.

Wendy already got good marks from me for last year’s Old, New, Borrowed, & Blue double live CD/DVD, but the DVD doesn’t compare with the in-person experience. Stripped down with an accompanist and sometimes a guitar, her warm honey vocals flowed voluptuously, tough and sweet at once. It’s one thing for songwriters to have limited vocals well-suited to their music; it’s quite another to possess a diva-like vocal quality that all songwriters dream of.

Sunny Sweeney got me from the first twang of her pure country voice. Forget the tabloid-worthy stories of how she’s so new on the scene; she sprang fully formed, like Athena from Zeus’ forehead. Sunny’s first CD, Heartbreaker’s Hall of Fame, landed her in the ranks of Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn and snagged her four appearances on the Grand Ole Opry. Now I have to go see her at her regular Saxon Pub gig on Tuesday to see if she’s as good I remember. Bet she’s better.

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