Shemekia Copeland is a great blues singer, yet her recordings challenge and expand the borders of the blues. Her latest album, 33 1/3 continues that trend with deep, gritty and soulfully satisfying results.
Producer Oliver Wood, of Wood Brothers fame, goes for a stripped down, raw sound featuring his own bare-bones guitar, Teddy Pecchio on bass, Gary Hansen on drums, and terrific harmonica work by Jon Liebman. Shemekia’s unadorned vocals soar over these tracks. The songs, many written by Wood and executive producer John Hahn, are first rate and the subject matter digs deep.
The swampy “Lemon Pie” opens with its message about economic inequality. Randy Weeks’ “Can’t Let Go,” a hit for Lucinda Williams, is beautifully redone as country blues when sung by Shemekia. The gem of the CD for me, “Aint Gonna Be Your Tattoo,” is a simmering ode to domestic violence, featuring Buddy Guy on guitar. Beautiful played, written, and sung with just the right amount of anger, Shemekia’s vocal cuts like a knife. “Somebody Else’s Jesus” has a taut Exile on Main Street vibe that Shemekia totally nails. Always in control vocally, she propels the songs, constantly building them and never oversinging. A pros’ pro indeed.
I can’t wait to hear Shemekia tear up these tunes live with her crack touring band, led by Arthur Neilson. I’ll see you there.
- Dave Keyes