This week saw the release of the new cd from Shemekia Copeland entitled Never Going Back. Shemekia Copeland is an artist that I am ongoingly excited about and I was thoroughly impressed with her earlier albums which I raved about here a while back.
Never Going Back is a totally different album from Shemekia’s earlier material – and that’s certainly not a negative in this case – but it’s very clear from the start what's happenning. Shemekia is making a break for a broader fan base and is no longer content to be regarded strictly as a blues persona. This is a very courageous leap – especially when her impressive lineage as blues diva is already so well established – but Copeland appears up for the challenge and the songs on Never Going Back are diverse, thought provoking and well produced. (Also, her vocals still shine out all by themselves).
Sounds like the Devil which was also co-written by Shemekia starts the album off with lyrics that deal with political and religious disillusionment interwoven amidst a catchy, Bonnie Raitt-ish kind-of melody. Copeland’s voice is strong and convincing and she gives the impression that it’s an effort to hold herself back. There’s no mistaking the message here either and the song is a great vehicle for conveying that sense of rage and frustration.
Dirty Wateris one of my favourite tracks on the album. With a sparse, understated beginning that features little more than Shemekia’s voice, the song builds and swells into a full-on, bass laden “I’ve Had Enough” anthem, propelled forward with the help of her able band members. I personally think that Shemekia is at her very best when she is in this mode – as was evidenced in previous works such as Breakin’ Out. Soooo good.
Never Going Back to Memphis is a smoldering song that makes good use of vivid images as well as Copeland’s considerable vocal abilities. The guitar work here is plaintive and convincingly vintage – it’s sort of Duane Eddy with a lot more menace …
Circumstances is the final cut on the album and is very much an old school blues number with a dark acceptance glowing beneath those John Lee Hooker inspired riffs. This is a song that should be much longer than a scant 3:35 minutes!
Shemekia’s latest album will still appeal to blues fans – as well as to enthusiasts of gospel, R&B and even rock – since there is something for everyone and she does it all very well. The social undercurrent of the album is surprising in some ways – again, when compared to earlier works – but that is part of Shemekia’s appeal. She is clearly not going to rest on past achievements and is poised to evolve as an artist. Stay tuned.