Young singing sensation Shemekia Copeland
possesses one of the most mighty and distinguished
voices on the global music scene today. Quite
frankly, she is a master of the greatest instrument
Ė the human voice. That voice is on display on the
retrospective Deluxe Edition, recently
released by Alligator Records.
As a mainstay on the blues scene for her entire 15
year professional career, you may not recall the
excitement when her ground breaking debut CD,
Turn The Heat Up, stormed the charts in 1998.
Copeland was the breath of fresh air the stagnated
blues world needed then. She was hailed as a
revolution and Messiah for the blues. Over the
years, she has received eight Blues Music Awards, a
horde of Living Blues Awards, headlined the Chicago
Blues Festival, and has had numerous television and
Born in Harlem, New York in 1979, Copeland began
singing professionally at age 16, first opening
shows for her father Ė the late Texas blues guitar
legend Johnny Clyde Copeland Ė and then leading her
own band. She signed with Alligator Records when she
turned 18 and proceeded to make four albums for
them. Copeland has struggled to find herself since
departing Alligator after 2005ís The Soul Truth.
Itís wonderful to hear the finest selections from
the four CDs that spawned the biggest blues
explosion in contemporary times.
Her explosive vocals do not growl like Koko Taylor,
but they sure can produce a full-throated roar.
Miraculously, her vocals can sound sweet, mean, and
tender Ė all at the same time. Copeland surrounds
herself with musicians as adept as herself including
Jimmy Vivino, Arthur Neilsen, and Brian Mitchell.
How can she go wrong with songs written by Gary
Nicholson, Jon Tiven, John Hahn, and herself?
Copeland has been gifted with a remarkable talent
for baring her soul via vocal expression. Experience
it for yourself on her masterpiece the magnificent
"Ghetto Child" (originally written, recorded, and
performed by her father), which will send shivers
down your back. Like a great actress, she takes on
the role of the songís protagonist. Here, angst and
oppression culminate to spur the listener into a
state of passionate empathy for the main character.
Itís hard to comprehend the authoritative song was
recorded when she was only 17 and still in high
Spoken from the heart of a woman, the extremely
emotional "Love Scene" is sung for women everywhere.
Here, it is revealed that women need to be loved,
appreciated, and respected. The songís main message
runs deep. It asserts it is better to experience
real ardor than to pretend and simply go through the
A combination of funk, soul, and rock Ďní roll is
heard on "Who Stole My Radio?" The captivating
lyrics describe why most of us turned off the radio
years ago. Quite purposely, the melody is extremely
radio friendly. Itís ironic that someone responsible
for making radio great (legendary Stax Records main
man Steve Cropper) is on a song that depicts its
demise. "Turn The Heat Up" is classic, comical, and
dramatic. Throughout, stirring lyrics are used
effectively. The song sounds retrospective (e.g.,
swinging horns) and contemporary (e.g., piercing
guitar work) at the same time.
Copeland won a Blues Music Award for her rocking
anthem "Itís 2 A.M." It may well be the best
blues/rock song of the 21st century to date. "Donít
Whisper" is a ballad that tears out your heart
because it reflects reality. The song proclaims love
should be proudly and openly displayed, not hidden
away like someone with a shameful sickness. Here,
Copelandís affectionate voice acts as the conscience
of a spineless lover.
You will feel many emotions after listening to these
16 poignant songs. Throughout 67 riveting minutes,
Shemekia Copeland refuses to be pigeonholed into one
specific genre though fans and listeners tend to
classify her as blues. Copeland dominated the better
part of the 2000s and this CD confirms why. The only
thing that would have made Deluxe Edition
better is a previously unreleased song or two. If
you donít have any Ms. Copeland in your collection,
this is all youíll need (for now).
--- Tim Holek