Uncivil War album (Alligator) should get some nods for album of
the year, and not just for the music here. In this year of unrest and
social injustice in our country, Copeland is using this set of music to
add her voice in the good fight and her hopes that we can bring everyone
back together as one.
What's unique about this
album is that there is a wide range of instrumentation, including some
accompaniment not normally heard on blues recordings, as well as a
variety of styles that cover a diverse musical road map.
Copeland hits the listener
right in the heart and conscience with the opening cut, "Clotilda's On
Fire," a slow blues telling the story of one of the last slave ships to
arrive on American soil, calling it 'Satin's daughter.' Country artist
Jason Isbel plays a solid blues guitar on this one. "Walk Until I Ride"
is another slow blues in which Copeland sings about the difficulties in
getting a cab to take her to her neighborhood. Jerry Douglas adds very
nice dobro accompaniment before the tempo increases with the song ending
with a rollicking gospel chorus taking it home.
The title cut, "Uncivil
War," should earn plenty of nods for Song of the Year, a very topical
number in which Copeland sings about how we've been torn apart ... "...
Same old wounds we opened before, nobody wins an uncivil war ..." Sam
Bush's mandolin work is one of the highlights on this number. Fellow
Alligator artist Christone "Kingfish" Ingram appears on guitar on still
another important message, "Money Makes You Ugly," a plea to the wealthy
to help us save the planet. "... We're drinking dirty water, while
you're drinking champagne ...," and then adding "... Money makes you
ugly, that why I'm glad to be poor ..."
Copeland goes in a couple of
different directions with the next two songs, first taking it down to
New Orleans for a funky and swampy tribute, "Dirty Saint," to Dr. John,
before changing the context of the Rolling Stones number, "Under My
Thumb," to celebrate women who have been able to overcome the tough
times handed to them.
It's time to tackle gun
violence and gun control on the mid-tempo heavier blues of "Apple Pie
And A .45," with Douglas opening the number with another quite fine
dobro solo before Copeland sings, "... Boom boom, pop pop, when are we
going to make it stop? ..." That leads into the slow, reggae-ish "Give
God The Blues," with Copeland singing about who God doesn't hate and
that He loves every ethnic, racial and political group, but our hatred
of each other gives God
Duane Eddy and Webb Wilder
share guitar duties on "She Don't Wear Pink," about a tomboy-type of
woman, followed by "No Heart At All," featuring Douglas on the lap
steel. Producer Will Kimbrough and the legendary Steve Cropper share the
guitar work on Junior Parker's slow, jazzy blues, "In The Dark." Closing
this absolutely essential album is "Love Song," a very soulful mid-tempo
shuffle, written by Copeland's late father, Johnny.
Uncivil War is a
strong addition to the Shemekia Copeland discography, not just for the
civics lessons she and her co-writers give us but also for the diversity
of material and instrumentation. It's well worth your attention.
--- Bill Mitchell