SHEMEKIA COPELAND: Thirty Three and a Third (Telarc/Concord)

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Shemekia Copeland is one of the biggest draws on the US blues circuit. Over a 20 year career she’s earned herself the title of “Queen Of The Blues” and though she plays regularly at festivals throughout Europe, there she remains almost unknown save to hard core blues enthusiasts. ‘Thirty Three and a Third’ is the lady’s second album for Telarc/Concord and Universal (the parent company) are hoping to use it to break Shemekia to a wider audience and with the right breaks they could do it, ‘cos the 11 tracker offers a contemporary take on the blues that is hugely accessible. Moreover the sound (rocky and authentic) is spot on for the demographic that these days (we’re told) buy albums in numbers – the forty somethings who still dream of becoming guitar heroes (“real” or “air”).

The Copeland sound is defined right at the start here. The opener ‘Lemon Pie’ is premier league blues /rock. Tough and dirty, it recalls the best of Tony Joe White and Delaney and Bonnie. There’s more of the same on ‘Can’t Let Go’ and ‘Somebody Else’s Jesus’. On all (indeed throughout the entire album) guitarist Oliver Wood is as prominent as Ms Copeland. His playing’s particularly stinging on the searing ballad that is ‘Ain’t Gonna Be Your Tattoo’.

Best of the covers is a new reading of Sam Cooke’s ‘Aint That Good News’. Where the original was light and sophisticated, this cover’s rumbling and rough yet it still retains the optimism inherent in the song. There’s also a sinuous, slinky cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’. Once again axe man Woods is to the fore though the track also boasts some pleasing pedal steel from Roosevelt Collier. Find out more @ www.shemekiacopeland.com

(BB) 3/5