Music preview: Shemekia Copeland

Young blues singer Copeland teams up with blues piano legend Mac "Dr. John" Rebennack on her new CD "Talking to Strangers." Listen in.

Topics: Music

Music preview: Shemekia Copeland

Shemekia Copeland
“Talking to Strangers”

Out now on Alligator Records

Harlem can toughen up a girl, and Shemekia Copeland needs that strength if she’s going to carry the blues on her back. The 23-year-old Harlem native’s powerful voice - her mature alto recalling those of Aretha Franklin and Ruth Brown — had been heard for years on the blues circuit thanks to her father, the late Texas blues guitar legend Johnny Copeland. He had her at the microphone of the Cotton Club when she was 8. No pressure, kid.

With “Talking to Strangers,” Copeland doesn’t disappoint, sounding much wiser than her years. Producer and blues piano legend Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack leads the adventurous singer into rock-ier territory here than on her first two discs, 1998′s “Heat” and 2000′s “Wicked.” The good doctor also lends his hands to the piano and organ and wrote or co-wrote seven of the album’s 15 songs. While Copeland was no slouch on her first two albums, “Strangers” tops them on consistency. Every tune is a treat.

Copeland’s energy is at full power on the album’s first cut and single, “Livin’ on Love,” and her comic timing is evident with “Two’s a Crowd.” She also does the best version of Rebennack’s “When This Battle Is Over,” since Delaney & Bonnie charged through the tune in 1969. The album is filled with sneaky bass lines, and the stereo’s volume nob can’t stay low for funked-out songs like “Sholanda’s,” even if it is about getting your hair done. By the time she tells you to “set yourself free” in “Walk On,” you’re already long gone.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 10
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Bet Me" by Jennifer Crusie

    A contemporary romantic comedy set to Elvis Costello and lots of luxurious and sinful sugary treats.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Welcome to Temptation" by Jennifer Crusie

    Another of Crusie's romantic comedies, this one in the shadow of an ostentatiously phallic water tower.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "A Gentleman Undone" by Cecilia Grant

    A Regency romance with beautifully broken people and some seriously steamy sex.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Black Silk" by Judith Ivory

    A beautifully written, exquisitely slow-building Regency; the plot is centered on a box with some very curious images, as Edward Gorey might say.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "For My Lady's Heart" by Laura Kinsale

    A medieval romance, the period piece functions much like a dystopia, with the courageous lady and noble knight struggling to find happiness despite the authoritarian society.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Sweet Disorder" by Rose Lerner

    A Regency that uses the limitations on women of the time to good effect; the main character is poor and needs to sell her vote ... or rather her husband's vote. But to sell it, she needs to get a husband first ...   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Frenemy of the People" by Nora Olsen

    Clarissa is sitting at an awards banquet when she suddenly realizes she likes pictures of Kimye for both Kim and Kanye and she is totally bi. So she texts to all her friends, "I am totally bi!" Drama and romance ensue ... but not quite with who she expects. I got an advanced copy of this YA lesbian romance, and I’d urge folks to reserve a copy; it’s a delight.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "The Slightest Provocation" by Pam Rosenthal

    A separated couple works to reconcile against a background of political intrigue; sort of "His Gal Friday" as a spy novel set in the Regency.   Read the whole essay.

    Romance novels need a canon

    "Again" by Kathleen Gilles Seidel

    Set among workers on a period soap opera, it manages to be contemporary and historical both at the same time.   Read the whole essay.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>