Shemekia Copeland: New York, NY, September 27, 2012
New York, NY
September 27, 2012
Shemekia Copeland, the daughter of the late, great blues guitarist Johnny "Clyde" Copeland, is an accomplished blues singer in her own right. She possesses a soulful, smoky voice and can, when needed, whisper a seductive lyric or belt and wail with the best of them. During her career she has opened for The Rolling Stones, performed at The White House and shared the stage with blues luminaries such as Buddy Guy, B.B. King and Taj Mahal. She has also released a number of critically acclaimed CDs. In 2011, at The Chicago Blues Festival, Copeland was presented with Koko Taylor's crown, by Taylor's daughter Cookie, and declared to be the new "Queen of the Blues."
Touring behind 33 1/3 (Telarc, 2012), before an audience that included her mother, assorted family members, her high school teacher, and blues guitarist Joe Louis Walker, the Harlem-born and bred singer wowed the crowd at New York City's City Winery. From the first notes of the first song, the swampy and bluesy "Dirty Water," it was obvious that Copeland would be burning through a killer set. It was also obvious, as evidenced by her many of her comments, that she was in a very playful mood. Her humor was both refreshing and self-deprecating, while having a friendly "nudge-and-a-wink" quality. She described 33 1/3 as "a tribute to the old albums that I grew up with. It's called 33 1/3 and so am I. I have to wait until I'm 45 and 78 to do follow-ups. But a friend of mine pointed out that I could do one half-way to 45 and call it 38 Double D." Later in the evening she made it a point to thank her father for "saving me from becoming a rapper."
Possessing a big voice and a stage presence found in only the most special of performers, Copeland's concert was nothing less than stunning. Her set, consisting of blues, R&B, funk and gospel/soul offerings, was highlighted by the rockin' "Lemon Pie" (about the greedy rich and the plight of the middle class in today's society), "Never Going Back to Memphis," "A Woman" (which sounded a little like Etta James), "Givin' Up You," the gospel-flavored "Somebody Else's Jesus" (with its Rolling Stones opening guitar riff), "Ain't Gonna Be Your Tattoo," "Big Lovin' Woman" (a sassy ode to "standing butt naked in front of the mirror" and saying "I am the most beautiful woman in the world"), "Mississippi Mud" and a stirring rendition of Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight."
The finale was a moving cover of her father's "Ghetto Child," during which she stepped down from the stage, leaving her microphone behind and strolled through the crowd singing, while her band-drummer Morris Roberts (who was celebrating his birthday), bassist Kevin Jenkins and guitarists Arthur Neilson and Willie Scandlyn-deftly followed her lead.
Returning to the stage for the encore, Copeland thanked the crowd and led the band through a barn-burning rave-up version of "It's 2 A.M.," the lead track from Wicked (Alligator Records, 2000). When the song ended, she again thanked the audience, left the stage, waded into the crowd, shook some hands, posed for some pictures and finally joined some friends sitting at a table.
Additional article contributions by Christine Connallon.