3:24pm

Tue October 9, 2012
Music Reviews

Shemekia Copeland Embodies The Blues On '33 1/3'

Originally published on Thu October 11, 2012 3:25 pm

Shemekia Copeland says she didn't really find her singing voice until her teen years, when her father, the late blues guitarist Johnny Copeland, began suffering from health issues. On her new album, 33 1/3, she finds a different kind of voice — one that's eager to participate in a national dialogue.

The songs on 33 1/3 address big themes like income inequality and domestic violence. "I hope you weren't expecting more / than lemon pie for the poor," Copeland sings in "Lemon Pie," in a sort of American twist on "Let them eat cake." But many of these tracks are also personal, stemming from some of Copeland's own experiences. She's as bold in her messaging as she is in her singing: Another song, "Somebody Else's Jesus," challenges religious hypocrisy, urging the faithful to re-examine whether their actions match their deeply held beliefs.

Far from breaking with tradition, Copeland embodies the blues with her powerful vocal chops and fearless look at social issues. The blues has always been about what's going on — whether it's in someone's home, in the town square, all across the country or in a person's soul. It's in Copeland's blood, and on her new album, it's in her voice, too.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Singer Shemekia Copeland is the daughter of the late Texas blues guitarist Johnny Copeland. She released her debut album at age 19. She's now 33 1/3, which also happens to be the title of her latest album. Meredith Ochs has this review.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LEMON PIE")

SHEMEKIA COPELAND: (Singing) Train left the station. I didn't climb aboard. Price of the ticket was too much to afford. And I saw that politician - I know you know his name - waving from the window of that gravy train.

MEREDITH OCHS, BYLINE: Shemekia Copeland says that she didn't really find her singing voice until her teen years when her father's health began to decline. On her new CD, she finds a different kind of voice, one that's eager to participate in our national dialogue. This song puts an American twist on Marie Antoinette's famous phrase about the poor: Let them eat cake.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LEMON PIE")

COPELAND: (Singing) I'm hungry for a job. I'm hungry for a meal. I'm hungry for the good things I'm too proud to steal. I'm barely getting by. I'm doing this and that while people on top keep getting fat. Lemon pie for the poor. Lemon pie for the poor. That's what we're working for. I hope you weren't expecting more than a little old piece of lemon pie for the poor.

OCHS: Although the songs on Shemekia Copeland's new album address universal themes, like income inequality and domestic violence, they're also very personal to her, stemming from some of her own life experiences. And she's as bold in her message as she is in her singing. This song challenges religious hypocrisy, urging the faithful to re-examine whether or not their actions truly match their deeply held beliefs. It's a conversation that many would shy away from, but Copeland is not afraid to go there.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMEBODY ELSE'S JESUS")

COPELAND: (Singing) You've got a hotline to heaven, and it puts you in control. The only thing you're missing now, baby, forgiveness in your soul. Well, it sounds like somebody else's Jesus, somebody else's Jesus. It sounds like somebody else's Jesus, sure don't sound like mine.

OCHS: Far from breaking with tradition, Shemekia Copeland embodies the blues with her powerful vocal chops and fearless tackling of social issues. The blues has always been about what's going on, whether it's in someone's home, in the town square, all across the country or in a person's soul. It's in Copeland's blood, and on her new CD, it's in her voice too.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SING THE BLUES")

COPELAND: (Singing) Well, I'll sing the blues. I'll sing the blues.

CORNISH: Shemekia Copeland's new album is called "33 1/3."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SING THE BLUES")

COPELAND: (Singing) My daddy sang the blues to my mama. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Related Program