Thursday, January 19, 2017

Shemekia Copeland Outskirts of Love

Shemekia Copeland
Outskirts of Love
Alligator Records

Returning to Alligator Records, Shemekia Copeland has just issued "Outskirts of Love," an album of blues, roots rock, and R&B that certainly will appeal to her many fans. Produced in Nashville by Oliver Wood, who plays guitar and adds backing vocals, the recording also includes Jano Rix on drums, percussion and keyboards and Lex Price on bass, with guest appearances by Billy Gibbons, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Robert Randolph. Also heard are guitarist Will Kimbrough and Arthur Neilson (from Shemekia's touring band), and steel guitarist Pete Finney. Wood and Executive Producer John Hahn (and Shemekia's manager) collaborated for a number of three songs and Hahn also collaborated with Ian Siegel on another. There are also renditions of songs from Shemekia's late father, Johnny Copeland, along with Albert King, John Fogerty, Jessie Mae Hemphill amongst others.

The title track is a rocking number that would not be out of place on an album rock station which Shemekia quickly lends her vocal authority to the Hahn-Wood lyrics. A highlight is the reworking of her father's "Devil's Hand" with a smoldering backing that builds in intensity along with her assured, blues shouting. Alvin Hart lends some down-home blues flavor with his guitar and vocal to the Hahn-Siegel "Cardboard Box," where she has no pillow, "mine is made out of rocks," and the "blues come calling, no it never knocks, life is so simple, in a cardboard box." "Drivin' Out of Nashville," is a country rocker although the tagline "country music ain't nothing but blues with a twang," may be memorable, if not true.

Shemekia's take on Orville Couch and Eddie McDuff's "I Feel a Sin Coming On" transforms this country classic into an intense slice of deep southern soul that sounds like it was recorded in Muscle Shoals. Jesse Winchester's "Isn't That So" is a tough shuffle with a New Orleans groove, while Billy Gibbons adds guitar to the remake of Z.Z. Top's hard rock "Jesus Left Chicago." John Fogerty's songs have recently been inspiration to various blues women (Vaneese Thomas) and Shemekia's maturity as a singer is evident on her interpretation of "Long As I Can See The Light."

After a fresh take on Albert King's "Wrapped Up In Love Again," the album closes with her rendition of Jessie Mae Hemphill's plea "Lord, Help the Poor and Needy," in this land. Its a pretty straightforward vocal enhanced by swampy feel of the backing. Shemekia's phrasing and use of dynamics elevate her beyond simply being a shouter. The performances on "Outskirts of Love" may span musical genres, but throughout, Shemekia Copeland is compelling throughout them.

I received my review copy from Alligator Records. Here is Shemekia Copeland performing "
Drivin' Out of Nashville."

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