Album Reviews

Shemekia Copeland

Outskirts of Love

Artist:     Shemekia Copeland

Album:     Outskirts of Love

Label:     Alligator Records

Release Date:     09/11/2015


Shemekia makes her return to Alligator Records with a powerful recording that melds blues traditions with contemporary flourishes. This is her third album produced by The Wood Brothers’ Oliver Wood, and keeps many of the elements intact from its predecessor, 2012’s Grammy nominated 33 1/3. Wood and Copeland’s long-time manager, John Hahn, pen the originals and team up to choose the wide array of covers that range from gospel to soul and even country. Recording in Nashville gave Wood the opportunity to bring in some of the city’s best session players, like Will Kimbrough on guitar for six tracks, and steel player, Pete Finney, on the country tune, “Drivin’ Out of Nashville.” As with 33 1/3, prominent guests appear on select tracks. Robert Randolph powers the stomping “Crossbone Beach,” Alvin Youngblood Hart plays and sings on “Cardboard Box” and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons takes the lead on his own “Jesus Just Left Chicago.” As with every recording, Shemekia included one of her dad’s, Johnny “Clyde” Copeland’s, tunes, “Devil’s Hand.”

Influenced by the late Koko Taylor, the only other blues singer, at least for this writer, who could match Shemekia’s sheer intensity, the mantle has been passed. At the 2011 Chicago Blues Festival, the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois officially declared Copeland to be “The New Queen of the Blues.” As you listen to her interpret Solomon Burke (“I Feel a Sin Coming”), John Fogerty (“Long As I Can See the Light”), Terry and McGhee (“The Battle Is Over”) and Albert King (“Wrapped Up in Love Again”), you just marvel at the bone chilling fervor and range of her vocals. She has already won eight Blues Awards and is still in her mid-thirties with a long career ahead of her. Shemekia tours frequently, and has a number of East Coast dates lined up including 10/1 at the Sellersville Theater, PA and 10/2 at City Winery, NYC.

Take my word for it. Her live performances are breathtaking.

-Jim Hynes

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