Shemekia Copeland is only in her thirties. But in the course of her career so far, she has already garnered the title of Queen of The Blues. Her current slate of releases shows why she is more than deserving of that title. And now her new upcoming album, “33 1/3” serves to maintain that reputation. “33 1/3” is a solid record that ushers in the blues for a whole new generation of music lovers. From the socially conscious opener, ‘Lemon Pie’ to the slower twelve bar blues style of ‘Ain’t Gonna Be Your Tattoo’ to the semi-country, almost Etta James style of ‘A Woman’, Copeland’s new record is a record that shows her musical prowess yet again.
“33 1/3” opens with a song that will grab audiences both with its groove and its lyrical side in ‘Lemon Pie.’ The gentle groove from bassist Kevin Jenkins and drummer Morris Roberts instantly grabs audiences right off the top. When Copeland starts singing, something happens. Even first time listeners of her music will be gripped by the power of her voice. It’s not an angry sound. But there’s a certain power and almost a sense of urgency to her voice that lets audiences know she means business. She sings, “Train left the station/I didn’t climb aboard/price of the ticket was too much to afford/And I saw that politician/I know you know his name/Waving from the window of that gravy train.” This is a great way to open her new album as it’s the kind of song to which everybody can relate. She goes on in the song, “I’m hungry for a job/I’m hungry for a meal/I’m hungry for all the good things that/I’m too proud to steal/I’m barely getting’ by/I’m doin’ this and that/While people up top keep getting’ fat.” It’s pretty obvious in the chorus that lemon pie is that proverbial piece of the pie that every American wants; that American dream. Again, it’s something to which every listener can relate. That combination of almost pleading lyrics and the up-tempo music makes this a great introduction for this album.
Copeland doesn’t lose her social consciousness after ‘Lemon Pie.’ The slower, ‘Ain’t Gonna Be Your Tattoo’ is just as hard hitting. The way that she sings here, one can only imagine a combination of Billie Holiday and certain other blues greats. Add in the soaring guitar work of Arthur Nelson, and listeners get what is one of this album’s top tracks. Copeland sings on this song of a subject who was able to get out of an abusive relationship. She sings as the song opens, “Just what I said wrong is anybody’s guess/But the bruise on my face/Was as blue as my dress/Broken bottle on the table/Broken lamp on the floor/Couple thousand miles/From the bed to the door/Lipstick on his cheek/from my last kiss/Took a ten from his wallet/Left the maid a tip/Ain’t gonna be your tattoo/Ain’t gonna be your tattoo/End up faded and blue/Ain’t gonna be your tattoo. That opening verse is so powerful in itself. As the song progresses, audiences will be hooked as she tells her story through song. While it’s sad what happened in her story, what makes this song good (besides the outstanding music) is that she was strong enough to get away, and not “be that guy’s tattoo.” If ever there was a song that was pure blues for the new generation, this is it.
Copeland shows her blues chops throughout the course of “33 1/3.” But something interesting happens on the song, ‘A Woman.’ She shows the close roots of blues and country music. At the same time, she reaches a point in the song where she sings with a gritty growl that would have made Etta James proud. Musically, this country blues hybrid hits all the right notes. Lyrically, it takes a different turn than ‘Ain’t Gonna Be Your Tattoo.’ She sings about the right way to treat a woman so as to keep her. She sings, “Any old fool can stay through the good times/And any old fool can run out on her/So you got to buckle up/And face that stormy weather together/And that’s how a woman wants to be loved by her man.” That one verse alone is so powerful in its truth. When she reaches the point about a woman telling a man not to put his hands on her unless he really loves her is the point when she hits that gritty vocal spot. It perfectly highlights the song and makes both her and the song shine. It’s one more that is bound to make programmers at any blues centric radio station take notice and want to play it again and again.
These three songs are just a tiny sample of what Shemekia Copeland has in store for fans in her new upcoming album. There are so many other great songs such as: ‘I Sing The Blues’, ‘Mississippi Mud’, ‘One More Time’, and ‘Can’t Let Go’ that shine here. Fans might even have their own other favorites. And that is the sign of a great album. “33 1/3” will be available September 25th. It will be available both in stores and online via Telarc’s website, http://www.telarc.com. While fans wait on the new release, they can also check out all of Shemekia’s latest tour dates and news at http://www.shemekiacopeland.com, and http://www.facebook.com/ShemekiaCopelandBand.
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