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Shemekia Copeland
@ The Cedar Cultural Centre, Nov. 20, 1998
By Ray Stiles

Shemekia Copeland
Photo © 1998 by Steve Felling.
All rights reserved
There has been a lot of positive press on Shemekia Copeland this past year since the release of her debut CD "Turn The Heat Up" (Alligator Records 4857). And justifiably so, she is one impressive singer and performer! Her Twin Cities debut at the Cedar was a gutsy performance sparked by her blues belting vocals and visually appealing performance. Introduced by her guitar player as "the princess of the blues, the daughter of the blues, the future of the blues," they were playing on the fact that she displays some similarities to Koko Taylor (The Queen of the Blues), her father was the late bluesman Johnny "Clyde" Copeland, and she IS only 19 years old.

Shemekia (pronounced sha-MEE-ka) was born on April 10, 1979 and grew up in Harlem (New York City). She is a powerful urban blues singer who can really belt out the blues with the best of the female blues singers out there today. She sings with a confidence and poise that belies her young age, and it probably won't be long before she is mentioned in the same breath as Koko Taylor or Katie Webster or some of the other female blues singers of that caliber. She has a powerful, full-toned voice that she uses to good advantage, expressing the emotion that a good blues performance requires. She also has the facial expressions and body language that complements her singing and helps express the words she is singing in a very entertaining manner. With "one look" the audience "knows exactly" what she means.

Shemekia Copeland
Photo © 1998 by Steve Felling.
All rights reserved
She has been traveling with her band, also from New York, who offered some very tight, lively and entertaining support. Eric King on bass was hamming it up with Shemekia on the rambunctious "My Turn Baby." The boogie, woogie style keyboards of Dona Oxford and the flying V guitar playing of Arthur Nealson were amusing to watch. Barry Harrison was on drums and is the sole member of her father's band currently working with Shemekia. Copeland joked before the show that she has been on the road so much this past year that she has grown accustomed to living out of a suitcase - literally. Even when she is home for short periods between tours she said she doesn't even unpack.

During the show Copeland played most of the songs from her new CD -- songs like the slow and sultry "Salt In My Wounds," to the R&B standard "Have Mercy," to the moving "Ghetto Child," to the funky blues of "I Always Get My Man," to the rough & rowdy "Turn The Heat Up." Even though the Cedar is more of a staid theater type environment, far different from the noisy, smoky bar rooms she normally plays in, by the end of the show she had the audience up and dancing in the isles. She said she wants the crowd to know just how much fun she is having up there on stage and she wants them to be a part of that fun. Copeland delivered an excellent performance with solid material and a robust voice that is only going to get better with age. We need to get her back for a return engagement in the Twin Cities soon!

Read a review of her CD "Turn The Heat Up".

This review is copyright © 1998 by Ray Stiles, all rights reserved.

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