THE SOUL TRUTH Reviewed in The New York Times

THE SOUL TRUTH Reviewed in The New York Times


August 22, 2005


The Soul Truth
Shemekia Copeland

Shemekia Copeland has no patience with the wrong kind of men on "The Soul Truth" (Alligator). She doesn't just leave them; she tells them exactly why she's going, what they did wrong and how much better she's going to feel when she's back on her own. Ms. Copeland is the 26-year-old daughter of the bluesman Johnny Clyde Copeland, who grew up in Texas and moved to New York City, and she was born to belt. She has a big, bright voice with a switchblade rasp, and on "The Soul Truth" she finds the ideal settings for it.

Ms. Copeland has sung plenty of blues on previous albums, but "The Soul Truth" is unabashed 1960's soul. The album is produced by Steve Cropper, the guitarist and songwriter from the great Stax Records studio band in the 1960's. He collaborated on some of the songwriting, and his guitar is at the center of arrangements with a lean backbeat, rollicking piano (by Chuck Leavell from the Allman Brothers Band and the Rolling Stones) and an ever-alert horn section. Unlike many soul-revival productions, the album supplies her with songs worthy of the treatment.

The melodies are chiseled and the lyrics are tough and funny: "Breakin' Out" compares divorce to a jailbreak, while in "All About You," which Ms. Copeland helped write, she realizes that "We're all through, because I could never love you as much as you do." Even when she's complaining about the state of the airwaves in "Who Stole My Radio?" - "I want passion, I want feeling/ I want to be rocked from the floor to the ceiling" - her terms are amorous and uncompromising. JON PARELES