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The Soul Truth

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Album Review

Shemekia Copeland can sing the heck out of the blues, but she isn't necessarily a blues singer, and on The Soul Truth she makes what would seem like a sure-fire move into Memphis soul territory, even working with Stax great Steve Cropper, who produced the album and adds his trademark guitar economics to most of the tracks. Copeland is a strong, forceful singer, and with support from the Muscle Shoals horn section and guest spots from Felix Cavaliere, who plays organ on three songs, and Dobie Gray, who duets with Copeland on Bekka Bramlett's "Used," this set ought to be a barnburner. So why isn't it a better album? The problem really is a lack of distinctive songs, with too much of the set suffering from generic lyrics and melodies. Most of the material was written or co-written by Copeland's longtime mentor John Hahn, who has contributed heavily to all of her albums (even producing the first one), and his songs this time out seem tired and clichéd, and while Copeland tries to inject them with some fire and spunk, they seem to mostly just sputter loudly, and worse, end up just exposing Copeland's bag of vocal tricks, as she tries everything to get them to lift off of the ground. It is telling that the best tracks here are built around outside material, with Copeland turning in her most emotionally nuanced vocals on the duet with Gray on "Used" (originally a country hit for Lorrie Morgan) and a cover of Eddie Hinton's "Something Heavy," while her take on Cropper's swampy "Honey Do That Voo-Doo" gives the song a wonderfully sassy veneer. Copeland has the talent and tools to be a major star, and the instinct to move in a soul direction is a good one, but she needs songs with real emotional substance, and there just aren't enough of those here. The Soul Truth isn't a bad album, but it certainly is a disappointing one, given the talent involved.


Born: 10 April 1979 in Harlem, New York, NY

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The daughter of renowned Texas blues guitarist Johnny Copeland, Shemekia Copeland began making a splash in her own right before she was even out of her teens. Projecting a maturity beyond her years, Copeland fashioned herself as a powerful, soul-inflected shouter in the tradition of Koko Taylor and Etta James, yet also proved capable of a subtler range of emotions. Copeland was born in Harlem in 1979 and her father encouraged her to sing right from the beginning, even bringing her up on-stage at...
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The Soul Truth, Shemekia Copeland
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