A Compelling and Enjoyable Album that Spotlights A Brilliant Voice.
It’s not that un-common for talented children to follow in the footsteps of their successful parents, especially in the world of popular music where there are indeed, numerous examples.
Johnny ‘Clyde’ Copeland was an accomplished Blues and Soul singer who won a Grammy in 1987. Sadly, he passed away in 1997 just as his, then 18 year old, daughter Shemekia was establishing herself on the scene and thankfully they managed to tour together before his untimely demise.
Undeterred, Shemekia chose the same pathway and she has now recorded eight fine studio albums since 1998. Following on from the success of 2018s “Americas Child” Alligator Records now release studio album #9 with “Uncivil War” and it’s an absolute cracker.
Retaining musical genius Will Kimbrough as Producer is a master-stroke, he also co-wrote 7 of the tracks with John Hahn, alongside a couple of covers include a Rolling Stones hit, a Little Junior Parker classic and of course, one from her daddy’s old catalogue.
Musically, we have a real hybrid, effortlessly fusing Gospel, Blues and R&B with Americana. Shemekia handles the sometime lyrical turbulence, covering lost friends, historic racial strife and even gun violence with genuine aplomb, making each song more personal than political. Indeed the jaw-dropping lead track “Clotilda’s on Fire” tells the story of the last slave ship to arrive in America, actually in Mobile Alabama in 1859, 50 years after the slave trade was banned, featuring a blistering lead guitar from Jason Isbell, himself from that same Yellowhammer State.
Dobro maestro, Jerry Douglas gets to play his lap-steel on the gospely “Walk Until I Ride” and the title track “Uncivil War” too, where Jerry’s good friend and mandolin icon Sam Bush sprinkles his magic dust over the poignant lyrics:
“Same old wounds we’ve opened before, Nobody wins an uncivil war”.
“Money Makes You Ugly” has highly rated blues guitarist, 21 year old Christone “Kingfish” Ingram playing the lead. Then, a N’Awlins shuffle kicks off the affectionate tribute to legendary Mac Rebenack; entitled “Dirty Saint” this has Kimbrough adding his subtle guitar licks plus there’s some superb organ and piano from Phil Madeira to compliment the memorable chorus of:
“Dirty Saint, Dirty Saint, Might be in Heaven, but probably ain’t, Played so sweet, make a woman faint, There’ll never be another Dirty Saint”.
My favourite track though is the cover of unifying and uplifting “Give God The Blues” which was originally co-written and recorded by Phil Madeira (with Shawn Mullins and Chuck Cannon) in 2012 off the conceptual ‘Mercyland: Hymns for the Rest of Us’.
Up-tempo “She Don’t Wear Pink” was co-written by John Hahn and Webb Wilder, who plays cool rocking guitar in tandem with the one and only Duane Eddy.
Junior Parkers “In the Dark” slows things down with her sultry vocals bouncing off the twin guitars of the producer and yet another legend: Mr Steve Cropper.
Appropriately, the twelfth and final track is a smooth cover of her dad’s “Love Song” that appeared on his Flying High album.
In summary, it’s a compelling, enjoyable album that certainly spotlights the brilliant voice of Miss Copeland but it can also be appreciated for the very high calibre of musicianship from the players and the undoubted masterly production provided by Kimbrough.
Released on 23rd. October 2020