HUDSON — For anyone who wonders what happened to old-fashioned R&B, soul, and blues belting - the kind that seemed to pass on with the likes of Koko Taylor, Etta James and Ruth Brown - seek no further than Shemekia Copeland, who carries on the tradition while carving out her own niche. The Grammy Award-nominated vocalist - who already has a closet full of W.C. Handy Awards and Blues Music Awards - will show how it’s done at Club Helsinki Hudson on Saturday, July 14, at 9 p.m.
While Shemekia is the daughter of the late Texas blues guitar legend Johnny Clyde Copeland, it’s her passion for singing, matched with her huge, blast-furnace voice, that gives her music a timeless power and a heart-pounding urgency. Her music comes from deep within her soul and from the streets of Harlem where she grew up, surrounded by the everyday sounds of the city - street performers, gospel singers, blasting radios, bands in local parks and so much more.
Copeland has opened for the Rolling Stones, headlined at the Chicago Blues Festival and numerous festivals around the world, scored critics choice awards on both sides of the Atlantic (the New York Times and the Times of London), shared the stage with such luminaries as Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Mick Jagger, and Eric Clapton, and has even performed at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama (check out the video here).
On June 12, 2011, at the Chicago Blues Festival, Koko Taylor’s daughter, Cookie Taylor, presented Shemekia with her late mother’s crown, officially giving her the honor as the new “Queen of the Blues.”
But Shemekia is not content to rest on her laurels, her honors, or her father’s reputation. In addition to such R&B legends as Dr. John and legendary Memphis soul guitarist Steve Cropper, among the musicians with whom Copeland has collaborated on recordings are keyboardist John Medeski, guitarist Marc Ribot, bassist Chris Wood, and his brother, Oliver Wood, signifying her desire to keep her music relevant to today’s audiences.
One of Shemekia’s earliest recordings was the aptly titled “Married to the Blues.” It’s still part of her setlist; she performed it just last fall at a blues festival in Poland of all places.
One of her fan favorites is “Turn the Heat Up,” a good description of what happens when Shemekia takes the stage.
NPR loves Shemekia Copeland. She was interviewed on Weekend Edition in 2015; performed a 20-minute set on World Cafe two years ago; and has appeared on Mountain Stage numerous times, including this half-hour set from 2013.
Last year was a particularly momentous one for Shemekia: she gave birth to her first child. Read all about in this feature in the Chicago Tribune.
Listen to Copeland sing several selections from her album “33.3” and talk about her own work, the great things that have been happening to her recently, and why she is committed to writing and singing songs that matter - music with social and political import.
But more than all of the above, come and see for yourself, when Shemekia Copeland heats up Helsinki Hudson with some of the hottest blues you’ll ever hear.