The sublimely gifted vocalist Shemekia Copeland, who is performing in the second annual Reading Blues Fest as presented by Berks Arts Council on Sunday, Nov. 18, is anything but predictable.
The daughter of Blues Hall of Famer Johnny Copeland is blessed with extraordinary range and versatility, evidenced by her performances and recordings.
On stage, Shemekia can be heard belting out a raucous blues-rocker, firing up a blistering soul-shouter, bringing the spirit to a gospel-fueled R&B rave-up or digging deep down into a subtle, country-tinged ballad.
In the studio, she hardly is predictable as she continually evolves her music.
Her albums have been produced by the likes of Dr. John and Steve Cropper. For 2015’s Outskirts of Love, Oliver Wood of The Wood Brothers manned the board.
Copeland’s powerful performance on Outskirts of Love was acknowledged with the 2016 Blues Music Award for best contemporary blues female artist and garnered her third Grammy nomination in the category of best blues album.
Her musical reinvention continues with her ninth album America’s Child, recently released on Alligator Records. Recorded in Nashville with producer Will Kimbrough, the record ventures further into the Americana realm.
America’s Child features new songs by Mary Gauthier, John Han, Oliver Wood and Kevin Gordon, among others. The album also includes reinterpretations of songs by The Kinks, John Prine and her father. Guests features include Rhiannon Giddens, Steve Cropper, Emmylou Harris and more.
Copeland will be part of the four-concert Reading Blues Fest finale starting at noon on Sunday, Nov. 18, in the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading Grand Ballroom.
Also on that bill are John Nemeth & The Blue Dreamers with The Berks Horns; Jazz Gets the Blues: Clarence Spady & Nick Colionne; and Vanessa Collier.
With a voice that is alternately sultry, assertive and roaring, Shemekia’s wide-open vision of contemporary blues, roots and soul music showcases the evolution of a passionate artist with a modern musical and lyrical approach.
The Chicago Sun-Times has written that “Shemekia’s a ball-of-fire vocalist with a voice that’s part Chicago and all woman … devastatingly powerful. She’s a great singer, period.”
Copeland has performed thousands of gigs at clubs, festivals and concert halls all over the world and has appeared on national television and NPR, and in newspapers, films and magazines. She is a mainstay on countless commercial and non-commercial radio stations.
She has sung with Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana, James Cotton and many others. She opened for The Rolling Stones and entertained U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait.
As a performer, Shemekia Copeland can do it all.