Shemekia Copeland, daughter of bluesman Johnny Copeland, followed in her fatherâ€™s footsteps for her first few albums, but with this release sheâ€™s slid into the adjacent genre on the musical spectrum: Southern soul. The disc is produced by Stax-Volt legend Steve Cropper of Booker T & the MGs (kids, if you havenâ€™t heard of him, at least youâ€™ve probably seen him in the Blues Brothers: heâ€™s the guitarist), who also plays on all but one track. Add the Muscle Shoals Horns on seven of the eleven tracks, plus keyboards (especially organ) from Felix Cavaliere (Rascals) Chuck Leavell, etc., a rock-solid rhythm section anchored by Steve Potts or Chester Thompson on drums, plus Copeland herself, and thereâ€™s soul oozing from every track. This was a direction Copeland was already moving in, so itâ€™s no surprise.
Listeners who prefer female singers waifish (in both body and voice) and deferential will be scared away right away: This is a big, strong woman with a big, strong voice that often sports a big, wide vibrato (maybe too wide and slow at times for some tastes). Nor are the lyrics subtle, allowing Copeland to lay out her feelings bluntly and powerfully, whether scolding or seducing. Dobie Gray (of â€œThe â€˜Inâ€™ Crowdâ€ and â€œDrift Awayâ€ fame) duets on the more low-key â€œUsed,â€ a Bekka Bramlett song that was a country hit for Lorrie Morgan. Even more stripped down is the tour de force closer â€œSomething Heavyâ€ (an Eddie Hinton song): just Copeland and Cropper. With Copeland joining the fold, comebacks by Al Green and Bobby Purify, Carla Thomasâ€™s continued presence, and the ascent of younger talent such as Ellis Hooks and Joss Stone, soul is alive and well even if radio programmers usually wonâ€™t admit it. - Steve Holtje
Mr. Holtje is a Brooklyn-based former editor of Creem Magazine and CDNow.com, editor of the acclaimed MusicHound Jazz: The Essential Album Guide, and contributor to The Big Takeover, Early Music America, and many other hip periodicals. He is a buyer at Sound Fix, a hot new record store in Williamsburg.