Shemekia Copeland, 'Outskirts Of Love,' Alligator Records (REVIEW)

By Mike Greenblatt on Aug 26, 2015 06:16 PM EDT
Shemekia Copeland Blues belter Shemekia Copeland's new 'Outskirts Of Love' is multi-genre. (Photo : Mike White/Alligator Records)

Where once we had Bessie Smith, Ruth Brown, Dinah Washington and Etta James, today we have Shemekia Copeland, a worthy successor to her legendary forebears. (We also have Bettye Lavette, but that's another story.) A native New Yorker, the 36-year-old Copeland sang in Harlem at The Cotton Club when she was eight. From the time she started singing on the stages of Johnny Copeland (her father) as a precocious 15-year old to the release of her latest CD, Outskirts Of Love, Shemekia has earned her respect the hard way: constant concerts criss-crossing the country where she finally ended up performing at The White House in 2012.

There's something for everyone on these Outskirts. She plays with her dad's "Devil's Hand" by turning it into Afro-Beat like Fela. In covering Solomon Burke ("I Feel A Sin Coming On"), Jesse Winchester ("Isn't That So"), John Fogerty ("Long As I Can See The Light"), Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee ("The Battle Is Over"), ZZ Top ("Jesus Just Left Chicago"), Albert King ("Wrapped Up In Love Again") and Jessie Mae Hemphill (the gospel closer "Lord, Help The Poor And Needy"), she proves genre is a dirty word, and interpretation a talent too often overlooked. She even sings some country ("Drivin' Out Of Nashville").

Shemekia Copeland

(Photo : Joseph A. Rosen)
Shemekia Copeland: an onstage dynamo

Despite showing off her considerable pipes here and on an impressive body of work starting in 1998 with Turn The Heat Up (at 18), 2000's Wicked, 2002's Talking To Strangers (produced by Dr. John), 2005's The Soul Truth (produced by Steve Cropper) and 2012's 33 1/3, Shemekia should be appreciated best on a stage where her natural ebullience comes to the fore. The woman is a dynamo.

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TagsShemekia Copeland, Etta James, The Cotton Club, Johnny Copeland

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