“Shemekia Copeland
wants to tell you a story”

151218 Shemekia Copeland - Photo Zbigniew Bzdak Chicago Tribune

Shemekia Copeland – Photo Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune

Over seven albums in 17 years, mostly on Chicago’s Alligator Records, Copeland took vocal lessons and worked on nuances with producer and songwriter Oliver Wood. Throughout this year’s Grammy-nominated “Outskirts of Love,” Copeland makes like her touring partner, bluesman Robert Cray, and spins clear-voiced tales of the down and out. In the title track, co-written by Wood and manager John Hahn, she sings: “Carrying a suitcase / all bound up with string / it was all that she had left since she pawned her wedding ring.” […]

Copeland’s latest album, this year’s “Outskirts of Love,” is her first cycle of songs dealing exclusively with the downtrodden — homeless people in “Cardboard Box” a date-rape victim in “Crossbone Beach,” a brush with sexual harassment in “Drivin’ Out of Nashville” and, more in line with blues conventions, the cheater in “I Feel a Sin Coming On” and the sad souls in Jessie Mae Hemphill’s “Lord, Help the Poor and Needy.”

“Today, Copeland sounds like she wants to tell you a story,” writes Steve Knopper who interviewed Shemekia for the Chicago Tribune before her sold-out show at the Chicago City Winery this weekend. The journalist talks about the lyrics and the stories of Shemekia’s Grammy-nominated album Outskirts of Love, and her voice. 

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