New Blues

The Riverwalk Blues Festival refreshes America's most celebrated art form

"I started singing really young, about 3 years old, around the house with my dad. That's what they tell me," Copeland says. "Started making music a little later on, when I got a better understanding of what the hell I was doing. I've been singing for a really long time, but I never had any training. I'm waiting to make some money so I can take some time off and learn how to sing," she laughs.

Copeland's new album, The Soul Truth, was produced by renowned Stax-Volt veteran and Booker T. & the MG's member Steve Cropper. Cropper also played guitar with the album's all-star band, composed of saxophonist Jim Horn, Chuck Leavell on piano, organist Felix Cavaliere, and ex-Zappa/Genesis drummer Chester Thompson.

"Steve is just filled with ideas, energy, and knowledge about music," Copeland says. "I'd really never seen anything like it. Working with him and Mac [Rebennack, a.k.a. Dr. John, who produced her previous album, Talking to Strangers] — they've just taken in everything they've learned, heard, all of their experiences in their lives, 40, 50 years of whatever, and put it into their music."

Shemekia Copeland holds it down while lifting up the blues.
Shemekia Copeland holds it down while lifting up the blues.
Otis Taylor
Otis Taylor


Thursday, February 9, through Sunday, February 12. Tickets start at $20 per day; multiday passes are available. Check
Various locations throughout downtown Fort Lauderdale.

Critics have accused her of moving away from the blues in recent years, as she's incorporated more soul and country elements into her sound. Her response is clear.

"I am one of those people that would like to see blues music grow. I'm 30 years younger than most of the blues fans out here. What's gonna happen to me 30 years from now when my fan of 80 can't get out to the clubs? The blues has to open up to different people.

"I don't want to keep remaking the same record," she continues. "My thing is, you can call it whatever you want. I'm just doing music that I love. To me, blues, country, and soul are almost one and the same because it's people writing about real life, and it feels real when you hear it, and it moves you. Every day that I live my life, there's a song in it."

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