by Imogen Speith
Award-winning vocalist Shemekia Copeland released her most compelling outing to date on Alligator Records entitled, America’s Child, on Friday, August 3, 2018. The record was produced by Nashville singer-songwriter and notable sideman Will Kimbrough. America’s Child is a fiery and bold step in Copeland’s discography, a major push forward as the singer continues to elevate her social consciousness in her music, as her career drives upward.
With guests including John Prine, Rhiannon Giddens, Mary Gauthier, Emmylou Harris, Steve Cropper, J.D. Wilkes, Al Perkins and members of the Time Jumpers. Gauthier and songwriter/executive producer John Hahn wrote two prominent songs for the project. “Smoked Ham and Peaches” is a quest for truth and calmness in America, featuring Giddens on African banjo. Blues and Americana music legend Prine joins Copeland for a rousing duet on his own tune, “Great Rain.” Guitarist Steve Cropper adds his brand of emotive playing to the ballad “Promised Myself,” written by Copeland’s father, the late bluesman Johnny Clyde Copeland. Copeland’s interpretation of the classic Kinks tune “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” is given a reverent reading with a blues-drenched call of independence.
“Ain’t Got Time For Hate,” is a blues steeped, barn burner and is a searing message for the times we live in, reminding all of us the time that is wasted on hate and separation, is a moment we can’t get back. Copeland is a burning flame of hope in the muck of hatred being spread and magnified by those with less than loving intentions. Whereas “Americans” reminds us that all of us are free to be as bold as you and me. Copeland reminds us that our differences are what makes us beautiful. Its that diversity that is still the bedrock of what American as built upon.
America’s Child might be Copeland’s most incendiary album to date. But who better than the belting alto blues queen to deliver the sorely need messages of social justice in these turbulent times. These are the bootstraps upon which great music was written in the 60s and certainly there is plenty to sing and write about these days. One cannot help but think this is an album of love, hope and remembrance, a keepsake for her son Johnny Lee Copeland-Schultz, born in 2016.