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33 1/3

4.5 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 25, 2012
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Editorial Reviews

In a span of less than two decades, Shemekia Copeland has evolved from teenage upstart to one of the most prominent voices in the blues. She's currently the most feted woman in the blues world and actually had a coronation where she was crowned and declared Queen of the Blues at the Chicago Blues Festival in 2011. Shemekia earned her crown with a series of high-quality recordings and an unrelenting tour schedule that has taken her to all corners of the globe. She's played all the major festivals and concert dates from Europe to Iraq to a memorable performance at the White House in front of an audience that included the President of the United States, sharing the bill with Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, B.B. King and other greats.

Early in 2012, Shemekia participated in two tribute concerts celebrating recently departed great Hubert Sumlin and Robert Johnson s centennial, both at New York s Apollo Theater in Harlem, not far from the neighborhood where Shemekia spent her childhood. Those nights she was a featured attraction along with Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Derek Trucks, Elvis Costello and Taj Mahal. Clearly, she's risen to the top of the field and that reckoning is underscored with the album release of 33 1/3.

For Shemekia, it s all about ushering the blues an art form that stretches back to the early 1900's into a fast-paced new century and keeping the music true to its roots, making it relevant to a new generation. Her latest step in this ongoing journey is 33 1/3, an 11-song CD set culled from a variety of high-profile sources, including Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, pater familias Johnny Clyde Copeland and Randy Weeks. Shemekia weaves it all together with assistance from a skilled studio crew: guitarist/producer Oliver Wood (Wood Brothers), bassist Ted Pecchio (Susan Tedeschi) and drummer Gary Hansen. Various guest musicians step in along the way, including the Buddy Guy.

"Every one of these songs tells a story about where I am in my life", says Shemekia. "They all connect to something that has happened to me, both good and bad. I've experienced a lot since I started making records and touring more than 15 years ago, and I think people want to tap into the wisdom that comes with that experience. I tried to bring a little bit of that to every one of these songs."
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Digital Booklet: 33 1/3
Digital Booklet: 33 1/3
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 25, 2012)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Telarc
  • ASIN: B008LBX7BY
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,358 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Having seen Shemekia live a couple of times I've always been a bit disappointed with her previous albums which although OK didn't really deliver like the live show. I'm happy to report that this new album definitely does, producer Oliver Wood has moved Shemekia away from her previous soul/blues to a more rock/blues sound and for me it works wonderfully.

We get off to a great start with the opener "Lemon pie", an uptempo commentry on the US economic situation, then it's an electric take on Lucinda Williams' "Can't let go", followed by the tough slow blues "Ain't gonna be your tatoo" with Buddy Guy guesting on guitar. The rocking "Somebody Else's Jesus" sounds like the Stones, I loved JJ Grey's original of "A Woman" but Shemekia's version (with great pedal steel guitar from Charlie Starr) is now the definitive version. "I Sing the Blues" has great electric harp from Jon Liebman, "Mississippi mud" is very catchy and features a vocal duet with J.J. Grey, "One More Time" is a nice jazzy blues by her father Johnny and "Ain't That Good News" is the old Sam Cooke gospel stomper. "Hangin' Up" is a restrained melodic soul blues and the album finishes with a laid back version of Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" with more soulful pedal steel.

There was never any doubt that Shemekia had both the blues heritage and a powerful blues-belting voice but she now sounds much more relaxed and has more vocal control - although she can still crank it out when needed. I think that this is easily the best record she has made, her singing is superb throughout and the band (including long-time guitarist Arthur Nielson) are with her all the way - this must be a nailed-on contender for blues album of the year!
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Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
Caveat: I have heard Shemekia's stuff on local FM radio off and on for years, but wasn't a major fan. Blues is not my first love. It's sacrilege I know, especially being a native Chicagoan, but I've tried, really, I HAVE tried to get into Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker and I just am not into it. I prefer blues rock like Blues Traveler or Robert Cray, or boogie-woogie blues -- the faster the beat, the more I like it, and I tend to prefer covers of original blues songs to the originals themselves. Like I said, to all blues enthusiasts: sorry, I know it's sacrilege.

All of that having been said... the songs on the latest Shemekia record, 33 1/3, really got my attention. I guess you could say on this album she has a bit of an axe to grind, but it's done so enjoyably that it's a strength rather than the potential weakness it could have been. I don't know about other stations, but they were playing the lead singles and some "deep cuts" from this album on the local FM station WXRT 93.1, which I listen to when I listen to radio rather than MP3s. Once I heard "Lemon Pie" I knew I wanted to get this record. This record rocks. It's bluesy but, to me, it rocks.

"Lemon Pie" rocks a sweet spot where bluesy observations of the struggles of daily living for the working poor intersects with scathing political commentary. Plus it has that boogie-woogie-blues sound that is my favorite kind of blues. I heard it on the radio a few times and listened closely to the lyrics, and it was on the basis of that song alone that I bought 33 1/3. Is she referring to a specific politician, or just all of them in general? You be the judge. Here are the lyrics:

Train left the station, I didn't climb aboard. Price of a ticket was too much to afford.
Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
This CD is right in Shemekia's Blues pocket, but she also expands her vocal stylings and with great result. You would be hard put to classify this as either contemporary or traditional - it's both! Sometimes it feels like an old classic and then it's modern and fresh and could easily make radio play, but common in all numbers there is an over-all intimate feeling. The well-sung songs are often conversation-like, with really great stories, you understand every word she sings. There is a ballad and romp or two and it all keeps rolling along so you listen to the whole CD quite happily.

An immediate favorite was "I Sing the Blues". Only a second generation Blues singer can belt out with completely appropriate swagger: "My daddy sang the Blues to my mama and I'll sing the Blues to you" Come on - too cool! Mississippi Mud is also a number you like from the get go. Super guest on this CD don't overshadow or distract - even Buddy Guy, but yeah how cool is that - Buddy blasting the guitar is just bonus round.

Get it while it's got that new CD nice price and then it's even bargain - let Shemekia sing the Blues to you!
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This album took me a while to like. When Koko Taylor passed away, the news in Chicago was Shemekia Copeland was her heir, that she would carry the big beautiful female voice of blues. Well to a certain extent Shemekia did that, her early albums were that big beautiful strong blues. 33 1/3 is something a little different. I was expecting to be blown away on my first listen. Instead, I was greeted with softer, more subtle songs that took a while to love. There is more variety of song styles than just pure blues. A couple of songs had me wondering if this was a jazz album, maybe Diana Krall or Alicia Keys slipped in. A little tiny touch of country slipped in, in a good way. And just a hint of Janis Joplin here and there.

The great news, after living with this album for a month and listening to it a lot, I decided I love this album. Copeland isn't Koko Taylor, she is different and something much more. She has a softer edge to her powerful voice. Where Gary Clark Jr went completely off the reservation with Black and Blu, Shemekia Copeland just got so much better. The styles she blended in work well. Her album has a theme to it, with a flow from first to last track.

The recording is well done. The right kind of raw edge to the music, not over produced in the studio. Buddy Guy adds his magnificent guitar playing to Ain't Gonna Be Your Tattoo.

Overall, this is a beautiful album. Maybe a little different from her previous albums, maybe not pure blues. It took a while to grow on me.
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