Award-winning blues, soul and Americana singer Shemekia Copeland possesses one of the most instantly recognizable and deeply soulful roots music voices of our time. She is beloved worldwide for the fearlessness, honesty and humor of her revelatory music, as well as for delivering each song she performs with unmatched passion. Copeland – winner of the 2021 Blues Music Award for B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year – connects with her audience on an intensely personal level, taking them with her on what The Wall Street Journal calls “a consequential ride” of “bold and timely blues.” NPR Music says Shemekia sings with “punchy defiance and potent conviction.” The Houston Chronicle describes her songs as “resilient pleas for a kinder tomorrow.”
On her new Alligator album, Done Come Too Far, Copeland continues the story she began telling on 2018’s groundbreaking America’s Child and 2020’s Grammy-nominated Uncivil War, reflecting her vision of America’s past, present and future. On Done Come Too Far, she delivers her hard-hitting musical truths through her eyes, those of a young American Black woman, a mother, and a wife. But she likes to have a good time too, and her music reflects that, at times putting her sly sense of humor front and center. “This album was made by all sides of me – happy, sad, silly, irate – they’re all a part of who I am and who we all are. I’m not political. I’m just talking about what’s happening in this country.”
And she doesn’t hold back. Recorded in Nashville and produced by multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Will Kimbrough (who also produced her previous two albums), Done Come Too Far is Copeland at her charismatic, passionate, confrontational best. With singular purpose and simmering power, Copeland unleashes the searing, history-fueled tracks “Too Far To Be Gone” (featuring Sonny Landreth on scorching slide guitar) and “Done Come Too Far” (with Grammy-winner Cedric Burnside duetting and playing Mississippi Hill Country blues guitar). “If you think we’re stopping,” she sings in both songs, “you got it wrong.” On The Talk, Copeland shares the brutally honest, harrowing reality of a Black mother talking with her son about surviving an encounter with the police (with the great Charles Hodges of the famed Hi Rhythm Section on pulsating B-3 organ). On the all-too-timely “Pink Turns To Red” (written and recorded prior to the May 2022 Uvalde, Texas school shooting), Copeland decries America’s gun violence epidemic.
Done Come Too Far’s better times and brighter days come on just as strong in the fun and swampy “Fried Catfish And Bibles” and the boot-kickin’, semi-autobiographical “Fell In Love With A Honky”. Spirits get lifted in Copeland’s celebratory interpretation of Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Barefoot In Heaven”, before closing the set with the heartfelt love song, “Nobody But You”, written by her renowned father, the late Texas bluesman Johnny Clyde Copeland.
Copeland is used to the spotlight. Born and raised in Harlem, New York in 1979, she first stepped on stage with her famous father at New York’s Cotton Club when she was eight. As soon as Copeland released her Alligator Records debut Turn The Heat Up in 1998 at age 18, she instantly became a blues and R&B force to be reckoned with. The New York Times and CNN, among many others, praised her talent, larger-than-life personality, dynamic, authoritative voice and true star power. With each subsequent release, Copeland’s music continued to evolve. From her debut through 2005’s The Soul Truth, Shemekia earned eight Blues Music Awards and a host of Living Blues Awards. 2000’s Wicked received the first of her four Grammy nominations. After two successful releases on Telarc (including 2012’s Grammy-nominated 33 1/3), Copeland returned to Alligator Records in 2015 with the Grammy-nominated, Blues Music Award-winning Outskirts Of Love, melding blues with more rootsy, Americana sounds.
With 2018’s America’s Child, Copeland, now the mother of a baby boy, sang about the blessings and curses of the world around her. MOJO magazine named America’s Child the #1 blues release of 2018. It won both the Blues Music Award and the Living Blues Award for Album Of The Year. AllMusic said, “Witty and sincere… Shemekia Copeland is one of the best singers in contemporary blues, not just for her voice but for her courage to use it to say something about American culture… showing good times and a social conscience can co-exist.”
In addition to earning a Grammy Award nomination (her fourth), Copeland’s groundbreaking 2020 release Uncivil War was named the 2020 Blues Album Of The Year by DownBeat, MOJO and Living Blues magazines. The album, like its predecessor, looked at the hardships and happiness people encounter, seeking common ground, demanding change and still finding ways to have a good time. “Shemekia Copeland is a powerhouse,” said Rolling Stone. “She can do no wrong.”
Copeland has performed thousands of gigs at clubs, festivals and concert halls all over the world, and has appeared in films, on national television, NPR, and has been the subject of major feature stories in hundreds of magazines, newspapers and internet publications. She’s sung with Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana, Dr. John, James Cotton and many others, and has shared a bill with The Rolling Stones. She entertained U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait in 2008, a trip she says, “that opened my eyes to the larger world around me and my place in it.” 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. She has showcased on PBS’s Austin City Limits and was the subject of a six-minute feature on the PBS News Hour.
Copeland was the subject of a recent Washington Post Sunday magazine story and appeared on both NPR’s Weekend Edition and Here And Now. And NPR’s Jazz Night In America recently aired an hour-long program featuring Copeland. In April 2022, she performed at the United Nations General Assembly Hall to a worldwide audience of millions as part of International Jazz Day celebrations. Copeland continues to host her own popular daily blues radio show on SiriusXM’s Bluesville.
But it’s not just press and radio singing Copeland’s praises. She is beloved by her fellow musicians across genres and demographics. Jeff Beck called her “amazing.” Carlos Santana said, “She’s incandescent… a diamond.” Bonnie Raitt told BBC radio, “Shemekia always knocks me out.” The late John Prine said, “She doesn’t sound like anybody else.” Mary Gauthier declared, “Shemekia is one of the great singers of our time. Her voice is nothing short of magic.”
As for the continuing evolution of her music, Copeland is very clear. “Once my son was born,” she says, “I became even more committed to making the world a better place. On America’s Child, Uncivil War and now Done Come Too Far, I’ve been trying to put the ‘United’ back into United States. Friends, family and home, these things we all value.”
With Done Come Too Far, Copeland hits harder than ever with musically and lyrically adventurous songs and jaw-dropping performances that are at once timely and timeless. The Chicago Tribune’s famed jazz critic Howard Reich said, “Shemekia Copeland is the greatest female blues vocalist working today. She pushes the genre forward, confronting racism, hate, xenophobia and other perils of our time. Regardless of subject matter, though, there’s no mistaking the majesty of Copeland’s instrument, nor the ferocity of her delivery. Copeland reaffirms the relevance of the blues.”
– written by Marc Lipkin