2013 Grammy Nomination for Best Blues Album.
My first impression of Shemekia on seeing her Wiki picture is just that she has got to be a heck of a woman; probably a powerhouse. She does "electric blues" which sounds confusing and fascinating all at once.
This lady hails from Harlem, just a few miles from where I sit writing this. Her dad is Johnny Copeland (Texas blues guitarist and singer) and she got going at the age of 16 as his opening act, creating a name for herself. But ooh - she graduated from Teanack High School in Jersey! Ha, that's awesome.
Since then, she's released a handful of albums, winning awards and working with the likes of Dr. John along the way. I may not have ever heard of her before today, but am excited to dive in and hear what she has to offer.
Right away, I'm digging the beat for "Lemon Pie." She gets a groove going well and right away. It's an old school, hard working song that you could dig just about anywhere any time. She definitely has the blues sound imbedded in her voice, but may is that guitar and beat giving her a damn good rock sound too.
I know we're only three songs in, but I was waiting to hear something slow and painful like "Ain't Gonna Be Your Tattoo." This is what I think when I think of female blues. She's got that deep, hearty voice, and is backed by a great B.B. King inspired guitar playing a complimenting melody. She's got a strength though, amongst the seemingly tough pain. It's something she's pulling out of and ready to move on out of there.
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"Somebody Else's Jesus" is interesting. It's a gospel song, or at least more on the side of it, and you don't always expect that in a blues/rock album. It's cool though, to see her take this route. And take a listen to some of the lyrics, and they'll downright make you laugh a little bit.
"I Sing The Blues" seems to pay homage to her family a little bit in the chorus, but basically is an agreement between her and her man about a give and take relationship, and what she's bringing to the table. Though, I don't know how singing the blues, other than musically it being damn sexy, is attractive to a man as a promise for the future. I'm sure I'm missing something awesome and crucial here for sure.
All right, a better up beat. If your toes aren't tapping for "Mississippi Mud" I'm very disappointed in you. Here, I'd like to point out her background singers in particular. Or maybe the one that I'm hearing the clearest. There's just the perfect angle of harmony in there. Then in the second verse comes in with a man singing (Buddy Guy). They start all singing together and it sounds like just sweet southern river singing.
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We pick up the pace a little to a rock-a-billy sort of beat with "Ain't That Good News" (originally done by Sam Cooke). For a girl from Harlem, you can sure hear those southern family roots. You can almost feel her snapping along and enjoying singing this number as it goes out. The guitar takes up its normal spot of second in command of good sound too, never letting up even once.
All right, kudos for ending on a sweet note. "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" (a cover of a Bob Dylan song) is slow and sweet, and a nice way to end the album - much like the end of a night. She wraps it all up in a nice bow and leaves us feeling that a whole album has been delivered and there's a definite sense of closure.
- "Lemon Pie"
- "A Woman"
- "Ain't That Good News"
I guess I don't listen music to blues, because Shemekia has never come across my radar at any festival or random talk or reading - just never before. But she is really something great and familiar, and has certainly found her place in this genre, sounding like she's really at home using that amazing voice.
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