This past weekend, I finally got to cash in a long-promised-since-April birthday gift — a live show at the uniquely intimate Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, Maine. Finding the rare weekend show at SMAC that matched up with our busy end-of-school-year-into-summer schedules, the babysitting grandparents’ schedules, and my musical preferences was a trick for my wife.
But, she chose well with Shemekia Copeland.
I knew the name and that she was a blues singer, but I didn’t know much more than that. I didn’t know, for example, that she was the daughter of a career bluesman Johnny Clyde Copeland. Or that she sang on stage with him at Harlem’s famous Cotton Club at age eight. Or that she released her first solo album at age 18. Or that she is as steeped in roots rock, country/bluegrass, Americana, and gospel as she is the blues.
Shemekia and her father, Johnny Clyde Copeland © Family Archive
And, I certainly didn’t know the sheer, awesome force of her voice. So powerful and resonant, it seems to come from her toes and be as natural to her as breathing. My word; at one point in the show, she walked off-stage and around the SMAC venue — a gorgeous, 200-seat, two-level post-and-beam barn — and continued singing without amplification. No problem; heard every word and note.
It was a good show and she is a great front-woman; engaging with the audience, funny, and clearly in command of that stage. The highlight song for me was Devil’s Hand, a song recorded by her father that she covers and that is pure fire played live.
(Featured Image: © Marilyn Stringer)