Shemekia Copeland – Deluxe Edition

January 01, 1970



Few artists in any medium have had the career of Shemekia
Copeland. By her current age of 31 she had already been nominated for 27 Blues
Music Awards and won eight. She is arguably the greatest female blues vocalist
in the world today. There can be only one Queen of Soul and her name is Aretha
and there was only one Queen of the Blues and her name was Koko Taylor. But
Shemekia Copeland is the heir apparent to both those women and the person best positioned
to keep the blues alive deep into the 21st century.


Deluxe Edition is
thus a historical document as well as musical. It is a compilation of songs
from the first four albums of Copeland’s career issued on Alligator Records
(her 2009 release, Never Going Back,
appeared on the Telarc label), and it captures the excitement and joy of a
great career taking off in full flight. Her first demo was cut when she was
still just 17 and in high school in Harlem, New York. Of course, by then she
had already had a professional career appearing alongside her Dad, Johnny
Copeland, the great Texas bluesman transplanted to New York. She had sung at
the famed Cotton Club at just eight. But in her teenage years, as Johnny’s
health began to fail, Shemekia would take the stage with him to help him get
through his gigs. Johnny was dead for a year when his 18 year old daughter released
her debut album in 1998, Turn the Heat
The first cut on this compilation is the title song from that album
and, with the Memphis sound of the Uptown horns accompanying her, it is amazing
to hear again the sheer power, poise and confidence of this teenager as she
attacks and conquers the song.


And what we witnessed back then was not some manufactured
teen act or an effort to piggyback on the fame and name of a parent but a
legitimate talent who, from the first note of the first song, was destined to
far surpass the greatness of her father. If you want proof, just listen to
“Ghetto Child”, a song that Johnny wrote and performed. In Shemekia’s hands it
becomes a show stopping masterpiece; a slow, socially conscious blues where
Shemekia incorporates the hard times of mean streets of Harlem into her
father’s song. She sings, “I know I ought to be in school but I went to school
one morning and the teacher she told me, ‘when you come back child, have some
shoes.’ I’m just the Ghetto Child in this so called free land.”


Deluxe Edition features
songs produced by Alligator president Bruce Iglauer, Jimmy Vivino, John Hahn, as
well as Dr. John and Steve Cropper of Stax fame. The result is an eclectic mix
of songs and styles which showcase the power of Shemekia’s force of nature voice
perfectly. There is the soul and R&B flavor of songs like “When A Woman’s Had
Enough” and “Who Stole My Radio?” to the pure rock and roll of “It’s 2AM.” The
latter includes an incredible harp performance by the great Sugar Blue along
with slash and burn blues rock guitar work by Jimmy Vivino, which gives the
song a distinctly Rolling Stones feel. Only appropriate in that Shemekia has
opened for the Stones.


During the seven years period over which these songs were
recorded Shemekia Copeland went from singing in small clubs in New York City to touring the world,
headlining Blues Festivals and appearing on TV shows. In other words, in the
small commercial world of the blues, she became an instant superstar. That does
not happen often and who knows if it will ever happen again.


But Deluxe Edition is
an album that you can play over and over again and it still sounds fresh and
buoyant. It is a great CD and captures the moment when a legitimate blues star
was born. And it is appropriate that it has been issued as the first release of
the 40th Anniversary year of Alligator Records. It shows exactly why
the independent Alligator was and is still the greatest blues label of all
time. Bruce Iglauer and his staff have never been afraid to introduce new
artists and give them the proper support and nurturing, all in an effort to
keep the blues a living and evolving musical genre.



the Heat Up” “Ghetto Child” “It’s 2AM” “Salt in My Wounds” TOM CALLAHAN 


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