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Shemekia Copeland: Outskirts Of Love

James Nadal By

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The Blues. Much has been written about how it has influenced countless artists in a variety of genres, but few can claim to have been born into the blues. Blues singer Shemekia Copeland, as daughter of Texas bluesman Johnny Copeland, has this unique distinction, and has borne this trait with heartfelt integrity. Bequeathed with a dynamic and assertive voice, Outskirts Of Love is an affirmation that she has taken the blues into contemporary territory, while maintaining the raw emotion that is demanded of those that dare venture into this expressive and exclusive vocation.

As times have changed, so has the blues. From the title track, with its hard edged guitars, this record finds Copeland accompanied by an innovative group of musicians who take the songs into rock, soul, Americana, and even country, as witnessed by "Drivin' Out Of Nashville," which she defines as "blues with a twang." "Devil's Hand," penned by her late father, has a riveting African syncopation and "The Battle Is Over (But The War Goes On) popularized by the duo Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, is given a blues-rock treatment, with selective breaks allowing Copeland to exert her voice. The downhome texture of "Cardboard Box," dealing with homelessness, features Alvin Youngblood Hart on guitar and exchanging lyrics with Copeland.

It is on the slow grinding ballad "I Feel A Sin Coming On," that Copeland really shines. This is the type and tempo of material that she can wring for every drop of sentiment, revealing the accurate experience of the song. "Isn't That So," with its creole rumba flavor brings to mind the back streets of New Orleans, which is mentioned on the ZZ Top classic "Jesus Just Left Chicago," showcasing the originator of the song Billy Gibbons, with his identifiable bad- ass Texas guitar. Continuing with the rock inspired covers, she delves into Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Long As I Can See The Light," though she approaches this one with a soulful timbre delivered with sheer conviction. Then it's back to hard driving stingers on Albert King's "Wrapped Up In Love Again." Proving she is more than capable of invoking gospel, "Lord, Help The Poor And Needy," composed by Jesse Mae Hemphill, closes out the set with a spiritual awareness that mankind still has a long way to go.

Back on Alligator Records, where she made her stunning debut back in 1998 with "Turn the Heat Up," and now with half a dozen records to show, Shemekia Copeland is a force to be reckoned with. Her commanding and emphatic vocals are conceivably the best in the business when it comes to genuine blues singers. That she covers such a wide scope of genres on Outskirts Of Love might be cause for alarm in hardcore blues purists, but she has earned the right to sing the blues in any form she likes, as she makes each song her own personal tale. Her stage presence is as inspiring as her recordings, attesting that she can convey the message with a genuine expertise that only someone born into the blues can.

Track Listing: Outskirts Of Love; Crossbone Beach; Devil’s Hand; the Battle Is Over (But The War Goes On); Cardboard Box; Drivin’ Out Of Nashville; I Feel A Sin Coming On; Isn’t That So; Jesus Just Left Chicago; Long As I Can See The Light; Wrapped Up In Love Again; Lord Help the Poor And Needy.

Personnel: Shemekia Copeland: vocals; Oliver Wood: guitar, background vocals; Jano Rix: drums, percussion, keyboards; Lex Price: bass; Billy Gibbons: guitar (9); Alvin Youngblood Hart: guitar, vocal (5); Robert Randolph: steel guitar (2); Will Kimbrough: guitar (1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 10); Arthur Nelson: guitar (11); Guthrie Trapp: guitar (6); Pete Finney: pedal steel (6); Matt Glassmeyer: horns (3, 7); Jason Eskridge: background vocals (4, 7, 8); Eric Fritch: organ (1); Mike Poole: percussion (9).

Title: Outskirts Of Love | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Alligator Records

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