BluesWax Rating: 10 out of 10
From The Crossroads to The White House
This is Shemekia Copeland’s seventh album overall and second for Telarc Records. On her last Telarc release, Never Going Back, Shemekia stretched her music, covering songs that demanded she modulate her powerful voice to create drama. Shemekia Copeland has been crowned the new “Queen of The Blues,” and on this new album she extends her abilities to draw an even larger audience.
The song that stood out on that previous album was Joni Mitchell’s “Black Crow.” On 33 1/3 it’s Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.” In 1998, at only 19, when Shemekia first recorded, she could not sing these songs this way. It’s her dedication to her music that has enabled her growth. Now at 33 and with time away from the studio she has matured beyond expectations. Credit also has to be given to producers Oliver Wood and John Hahn.
Wood and Hahn contribute four new songs, including the awesome “Somebody Else’s Jesus.” “Mississippi Mud” features guest vocalist J.J. Grey. The opening track, “Lemon Pie,” is a topical ode to the middle class. The emotive “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Tattoo” is about the courage to walk out on a violent domestic situation and it features Buddy Guy on lead guitar. Her band on this album includes Wood on guitar, Ted Pecchio on bass, and Gerry Hansen on drums.
Arthur Nielson, Copeland’s regular guitarist, is featured on “Hangin’ Up” and on Sam Cooke’s “Ain’t That Good News.” Shemekia shows her country-ish side on Randy Weeks‘ “Can’t Let Go” and on J.J. Grey’s “A Woman,” featuring Charlie Starr on pedal steel. On each of her albums she always includes one of her father Johnny’s songs and this time it’s “One More Time.”
Copeland’s growth is well documented as she was recently featured “In Performance at The White House” on public television. In my opinion, Copeland is still maturing. Her potential is therefore unlimited as she continues to take her blues on a joy ride. Better hang on.
Richard Ludmerer is a contributing editor at BluesWax.
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