Photo: Shemekia Copeland @ 2012 Sierre Blues Festival | (c) Christophe Losberger.
The next show will air on August 5, 2018 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This broadcast features an interview with blues singer Shemekia Copeland.
The daughter of renowned Texas blues guitarist Johnny Copeland, award-winning blues singer 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. Her 1998 Alligator debut, Turn the Heat Up!, featured a career-elevating version of her father’s classic “Ghetto Child,” that has been part of her performance repertoire ever since. She released three more acclaimed rough-and-rowdy recordings that decade before revealing a more nuanced, slow-burning persona on Never Going Back in 2009. By the time she gave birth to her first child in 2017 and released America’s Child a year later, she had transformed herself into a mature artist of vision and depth who could inhabit virtually any genre of music without sacrificing the power and passion that initially established her reputation.
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 the Cotton Club when she was just eight. She began to pursue a singing career in earnest at age 16, when her father’s health began to decline due to heart disease; he took Shemekia on tour with him as his opening act, which helped establish her name on the blues circuit. She landed a record deal with Alligator, which issued her debut album, Turn the Heat Up!, in 1998 when she was just 19 years old (sadly, her father didn’t live to see the occasion).
While the influences on Copeland’s style were crystal clear, the record was met with enthusiastic reviews praising its energy and passion. Marked as a hot young newcomer to watch, Copeland toured the blues festival circuit in America and Europe, and landed a fair amount of publicity. Her second album, Wicked, was released in 2000 and featured a duet with one of her heroes, early R&B diva Ruth Brown. Wicked earned Copeland a slew of W.C. Handy Blues Award nominations and she walked off with three: Song of the Year, Blues Album of the Year, and Contemporary Female Artist of the Year. The follow-up record, Talking to Strangers, was produced by legendary pianist Dr. John and featured songs that she proudly claimed were her best yet. The Soul Truth, produced by Steve Cropper, was released by Alligator Records in 2005. Never Going Back followed in 2009 from Telarc Blues and was produced by the Wood Brothers’ Oliver Wood. 33 1/3 appeared in 2012 and was again produced by Wood and issued by Telarc. Copeland returned to Alligator for the release of 2015’s Outskirts of Love, which featured guest appearances from Robert Randolph, Alvin Youngblood Hart, and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top. The album was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Blues album category. In 2017, Copeland gave birth to a son and the following year, deeply inspired by the experience, she shifted directions. She chose to record in Nashville and enlisted producer/guitarist Will Kimbrough — who in turn enlisted a guest list that included John Prine, Mary Gauthier, Emmylou Harris, Steve Cropper, and more. With guidance from Kimbrough, Copeland dug deep and completed a deeply resonant program of soul, Americana, blues, and country. America’s Child, the set was released on August 3, 2018.
This program is hosted, engineered, produced, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.
Shemekia Copeland will be at Iridium on August 18.
Watch Copeland sing “Ghetto Child” in this live clip.
Hank Williams is assistant producer for Suga’ in My Bowl and produces the weekly “On the Bandstand” segment as well as running the show’s website and blog, where he has reviewed several jazz festivals. His writing has also appeared in Left Turn magazine and American Music Review. He teaches at Lehman College in the City University of New York system.
The next show will air on Sunday, August 9, 2015 from 11:00 PM – 1:00 AM Monday Eastern Standard Time on WBAI, 99.5 FM in the NYC metro area or streaming online at wbai.org. This broadcast will feature an interview with the Blues vocalist “Big Mama” Alexis P Suter.
Alexis P. Suter is the youngest daughter born to Carrie Suter (Artist, Teacher) and Albert Suter (Postal Worker, Preacher) in Brooklyn, New York. Suter was always destined for the stage as she began singing at the tender age of four in church recitals and special events. As a young girl she would create songs to sing for her mother or anyone else who wanted to listen. Alexis attended “The Little Children’s Theatre” on Church Avenue in Brooklyn briefly for vocal lessons but preferred her mother’s instructions as she would receive her undivided attention.
Although she appreciated all types of music, Suter’s roots were Gospel. She often attended different churches to experience the many styles of worship and music ministry. In her early twenties, Suter discovered the world of theatre. She joined a very talented and diverse group of artists known as the “Performance Art Chorale” (PAC) under the direction of Miche Braden. With Ms. Braden’s coaching she deepened her knowledge of the performance art, developed acting skills and expanded her vocal repertoire.
After singing for several years in various choirs and making small club appearances, Suter longed for the opportunity to share her talents on a broader scale. She began to sing “House/Dance” music and made her first solo recording with the song “Slam Me Baby”; released in 1990. The success of this record launched her career and she became the first African American woman signed to Epic Sony Japan’s Dance label. Shortly thereafter she met Vicki Bell (songwriter, producer, vocalist with “Hipbone Records”) at a function where they both sang background vocals for a mutual friend. Suter quickly signed with “Hipbone Records” and has continued her relationship with them to the present day.
In 2005, Suter recorded her first full length CD entitled Shuga Fix featuring original tunes and a more soulful sound. To her credit she has recorded a total of 6 CDs thus far. In addition to Shuga Fix are Just Another Fool, Alexis P Suter Band LIVE at the Midnight Ramble (Suter went on to open for the late Levon Helm at the Midnight Ramble in Woodstock, NY over 90 times), Two Sides, Live at the Turning Point and her current Blues/Rock CD Love the Way You Roll. The latter is presently doing very well on all of the Blues Charts.
Recently Suter has formed “The Ministers of Sound” ensemble which includes Vicki Bell, Ray Grappone (Drummer) and various guest musicians. They are presently recording their first CD which will feature Gospel and other Spiritual/Inspirational music.
Bio excerpt courtesy of alexispsuter.com.
Show engineered, produced, hosted, and edited by Joyce Jones. Listen for our On the Bandstand segment with NYC metro area appearances of Suga’ guests at the end of the first hour with Associate Producer Hank Williams.
Watch Suter perform the title track from her latest release, “Love the Way You Roll”, live at NYC’s BB King’s.
Watch Suter perform “John the Revelator” and “Savior” at a live 2011 show.
Watch Suter perform “Built for Comfort” live.