There’s an unrelenting power to Shemekia Copeland’s performance on her tenth album; her rich, grainy vocals, sitting midpoint between Ruth Brown and Mavis Staples have never sounded so forceful, and her songwriting, in the context of a divided America, transmits a sense of solidarity and hope throughout. Produced by Will Kimbrough, the opener Clotilda’s On Fire tells the story of America’s last slave ship, over fearsome guitar-playing by Jason Isbell; the closer Love Song sees daughter pay affectionate tribute to her father Johnny Copeland on his Texas blues. Walk Until I Ride, an impassioned BLM protest in the style of The Staple Singers and the thoughtful title track – a soulful folk address with mandolin, dobro and Hammond B3 – provide more highlights on this career best.
For some, 40-year-old vocalist Shemekia Copeland might seem out of step with a generation more in tune with hip-hop than the blues. But since her first Grammy nomination at the age of 21, Copeland has been working to push the blues into the 21st century while still respecting its traditions. Tom Casciato recently spoke with Copeland about her past, her music and how she’s out to change the world.
Watch Shemekia’s full interview on PBS News Hour Weekend, by Emmy award-winning director, writer, producer and television executive Tom Casciato. It aired this Sunday, January 26.
You can also read the full transcript..
Shemekia Copeland is the greatest female blues vocalist working today.
– The Chicago Tribune
Award-winning blues, soul and Americana vocalist Shemekia Copeland will be featured on the nationally televised program PBS NewsHour Weekend on Sunday, January 26, 2020. Copeland, a three-time Grammy nominee, brings her wide-open vision of contemporary American roots music to every song she sings.
PBS NewsHour Weekend’s Tom Casciato says he considers Copeland “a great vocalist.” During the eight-minute segment, Copeland tells Casciato, among other things, about getting in trouble as a child at school for singing the Koko Taylor song I’m A Woman. Many of Copeland’s songs – from classics like Ghetto Child to more recent anthems like Ain’t Got Time For Hate– will be heard during the piece.
The show will air late Sunday afternoon but at various times in different markets. Local PBS stations can be found here. Please note that depending on current events, scheduling may change.
The segment will be available to stream in full at the PBS NewsHour Weekend website beginning on January 26.
Copeland recently received two 2020 Blues Music Award nominations. She won two Blues Music Awards in 2019, including Album Of The Year for her groundbreaking album, America’s Child. Copeland is currently working on her next as-yet-untitled album, due out later in 2020. She can be heard daily hosting her own blues radio show on SiriusXM’s Bluesville.
When she first burst on the scene at age 18 in 1998 with her groundbreaking Alligator Records debut CD, Turn The Heat Up, Copeland quickly became a blues and R&B force to be reckoned with. News outlets from The New York Times to CNN praised Copeland’s talent, larger-than-life personality, and true star power. With each subsequent release, Copeland’s music has continued to grow, reaching a larger and larger audience. In 2018, influential tastemaker UK music magazine MOJO named America’s Child the #1 blues album of the year.
Copeland has performed thousands of gigs at clubs, festivals and concert halls all over the world and has appeared on national television, NPR, and in newspapers, films and magazines. She’s sung with Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana, James Cotton and many others. She opened for The Rolling Stones and entertained U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait. Jeff Beck calls her “amazing.” Santana says, “She’s incandescent…a diamond.” In 2012, she performed with B.B. King, Mick Jagger, Buddy Guy, Trombone Shorty, Gary Clark, Jr. and others at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama.
NPR Music says, “She brings a perfect balance of authority and understatement to each song.” No Depression adds, “When Shemekia Copeland opens her mouth, everybody pays attention. She pierces your soul. This is how you do it, and nobody does it better than Shemekia Copeland.”
The Blues Foundation announced the nominees for the 41st Annual Blues Music Awards, the blues world’s highest honors, this Tuesday, January 7, 2020.
Shemekia Copeland received two nominations:
- Contemporary Blues Female Artist Of The Year
- Instrumentalist – Vocals
The 41st Annual Blues Music Awards will be presented in Memphis on May 7, 2020 at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts.
The full list of nominees can be found on blues.org.
Living Blues magazine announced the winners in their Critic’s Poll for the Living Blues Awards. Shemekia and her latest album, America’s Child, win four awards:
• Album of the Year – America’s Child
• Most Outstanding Blues Singer – Shemekia Copeland
• Blues Artist of the Year (Female) – Shemekia Copeland
• Producer of the Year – Will Kimbrough (for America’s Child)
Award-winning blues, R&B and Americana vocalist Shemekia Copeland, touring in support of her latest Alligator Records release, America’s Child, will headline the Swing Wespelaar festival in Wespelaar, Belgium on Saturday, August 17, 2019.
Produced by Will Kimbrough (who also plays guitar on the album) and recorded in Nashville, America’s Child – named the #1 blues album of 2018 by MOJO magazine – is a courageous and fiery statement of purpose, a major step forward for the singer whose musical consciousness continues to expand as her star continues to rise. With guests including John Prine, Rhiannon Giddens, Mary Gauthier, Emmylou Harris and Steve Cropper, America’s Child bursts with Copeland’s bravado and embraces with her tenderness. In 2019, Copeland received two Blues Music Awards for America’s Child: Album Of The Year and Contemporary Blues Album Of The Year. Copeland can be heard daily hosting her own blues radio show on SiriusXM.
Read the full story in Keys and Chords.
It’s evident who inspired much of Shemekia Copeland’s latest album, “American Child,” after listening to the leadoff track, “Ain’t Got Time to Hate.”
“Where’s your little angel wings/my sweet baby child/and how you gonna live/in a world gone wild.”
Copeland’s 2-year-old son, Johnny, changed the blues singer’s outlook on life.
“So much changed after he arrived,” Copeland, 40, said by phone from her Chicago home. “My music has definitely been impacted by him. You can hear that on this album. It all happened organically.”
Copeland…explores a variety of issues on the album. The gritty “America’s Child” tackles racism on “Would You Take My Blood,” the state of a bewildering nation on “Ain’t Got Time for Hate” and a poetic take on individuality with “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.”
By Ed Condran, before Shemekia headlines the North Liberty Blues and BBQ in North Liberty, Iowa, this Saturday, July, 13. Read the full story in The Gazette.
For Shemekia Copeland, the blues comes in many forms these days. When I got her on the phone last week, she had spent the day before with her son and about 50 “2-, 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds on a field trip.”
“I came home, pulled all my hair out and had a glass of wine,” Copeland said, laughing.
She was enjoying a few days off from her first full tour since having her son, two-and-a-half-year-old Johnny Lee Copeland-Schultz, and she admits that it’s been a big readjustment to go back to a full time touring schedule….Copeland’s ninth album, America’s Child is her most personal and widest-ranging record yet, which she said is the result of her new role as a mother.
“This album is based around my little guy. When he was born, everything for me changed. I wanted a better world for him. I know that makes me sound crazy, like a beauty queen or something. But no, I really felt that way,” Copeland said. “What better way to make the world a better place than by just putting it out there, musically.”
The headliner for the event, Shemekia Copeland has been singing the blues for over 20 years and has been awarded numerous accolades for her art. Copeland has a rich voice, powerful lyrics and is firmly nestled in (traditional blues with a bit of an edge.)
“[Copeland] is an amazing contemporary blues artist,” said Andre Perry, the executive director for The Englert of Copeland in a previous interview with the Press-Citizen. “To have someone achieve what she’s achieved headlining is just great, so we’re supper happy she was able to work it out and that she was able to be here for it.”
By Isaac Hamlet, before Shemekia’s performance at the North Liberty Blues and BBQ this coming Saturday, July 13. Read the full story in the Iowa City Press-Citizen.