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The Royalty Of Shemekia Copeland 
The reigning "Queen of the Blues" brings her pulsating sound to City Winery
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   PERHAPS no one would dispute the fact that Shemekia Copeland is one of a kind, having established herself as an influential blues singer who is perched on a musical pedestal that prompts fans and critics alike to use words such as “unique,” “expressive,” “powerful” and “gutsy” to describe her. And with her new album, Outskirts Of Love, she continues to chart a path laid out by her father, Texas blues icon Johnny Copeland.
   “I want to keep growing, to be innovative. I’m a lifer, singing about things that are important me, using my music to help people,” says Copeland, who brings her show to City Winery on December 20. “My dad always said ‘we’re all connected.’ I’m an old soul marching to the beat of my own drum, and right now I’m making the most exciting music of my career.”
   With Outskirts Of Love, Copeland adroitly mixes other music genres into her blues foundation, offering more evidence for her ascension in the industry and her appeal to more and more followers. Just days ago, the new CD, which is Shemekia’s eighth, was nominated for a Grammy Award in the blues album category, and it is competing with the likes of Buddy Guy (Born to Play Guitar), the Cedric Burnside Project (Descendants of Hill Country), Bettye LaVette (Worthy) and Muddy Waters 100 by John Primer and various artists. (The 58th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony will be held at Los Angeles’ Staples Center on February 15.)
   Copeland, who performed at the White House in 2012, has had a life of music for most of her life because her father recognized her potential at a young age. In an effort to develop that potential, the acclaimed bluesman encouraged his daughter to sing, sing and sing––at home and in public. By the time she was 8, she already had performed at Harlem’s legendary Cotton Club, and by 15 she had joined her father on tour after a heart ailment limited his time on stage. Shemekia was opening his shows, but she later realized that her father’s intentions weren’t what they appeared to be. “Dad wanted me to think I was helping him out by opening his shows when he was sick, but really he was doing it all for me,” says Shemekia, who previously received Grammy nominations for her notable albums Wicked in 2001 and 33 1/3 in 2013. “He would go out and do gigs so I would get known. He went out of his way to get me that exposure.”

​   Although born in Harlem, Copeland is by no means a stranger to Chicago, having performed in the city numerous times and her sound even has been described as “part Chicago” due to her gritty, intense and impassioned delivery. But her connection to Chicago goes even deeper. She was a protégée of sorts of the legendary Koko Taylor, who wore the crown as “Queen of the Blues” for years, until she died in 2009. Taylor was one of Shemekia’s biggest supporters, regularly monitoring her career and giving her guidance. So it was a natural progression that at the 2011 Chicago Blues Festival, the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois officially declared Copeland to be “The New Queen of the Blues,” a move supported by Taylor's family.
   In acknowledging her elevation to music royalty, Shemekia said: “Koko was my queen. I absolutely adored her and loved her, and I miss her every day. Knowing that people are there to continuously support you, and when you have people who love you, you never want to disappoint them. I promise that with this wonderful honor I will never disappoint. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, and keep on singing the blues.”
   And sing she has, with a voice that’s been said to be “part Koko Taylor and part Mavis Staples,” two of Chicago’s best. With such a combination, it’s easy to see why Shemekia Copeland is a reigning queen.
–– Walter Leavy
Award-winning blues singer Shemekia Copeland skillfully incorporates a little bit of country, gospel and more into her foundation of the blues. 
The Harlem-born singer has been described as "stirring, sassy and spectacular."
"It was like a switch went off in my head, and [at 15] I wanted to sing. It became a want and a need. I had to do it. Dad would go out and do gigs so I would get known."
​                                                                      –– Shemekia Copeland
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​For more information and tickets to the show at City Winery, go to www.citywinery.com. 
Shemekia Copeland © Photo Joseph A. Rosen
Shemekia Copeland © Photo Joseph A. Rosen
Shemekia Copeland © Photo Joseph A. Rosen