Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Copeland has already made a case for being the most powerful blues voice of this generation, and of late she's been crossing lines, working in the roots field as well. This album is potentially her biggest statement, inspired of course by the dire straits face by her nation. Quite rightly, she realizes the need for the right people to claim ownership of that flag, for the truth it represents, not the ignorance.

Copeland is a masterful interpreter, able to imbue well-written songs with added gravitas, even with the authors present. John Prine joins for a duet on his 1990's cut Great Rain, and that number gets new strength in this protest setting, while Prine's vocal seems to come up a notch to match, too. Her reworking of The Kinks' '60's cut I'm Not Like Everybody Else uncovers a bold, empowering statement that's been overlooked for decades.

It's the new material that really drives the album though, especially two from Mary Gauthier, Americans and Smoked Ham and Peaches. In the latter, Copeland is able to sum up the national nightmare with lines such as "Are you under the covers with a flashlight like the rest of us now? Does the world make you think that everything's coming unwound?" Later, she offers a respite, for now: "When the whole world seems fake, give me something real/Hank Williams singing, a whistle, a far-away train." All the while, Copeland's ruling with her vocals, all the authority of Mavis Staples and the intensity of Etta James.

The album also includes lots of variety, including the ballad Promised Myself, an old cut from her late father, Johnny Clyde Copeland, a Stones-style rocker In The Blood Of The Blues, and the calming closer, the traditional Go To Sleepy Little Baby. With plenty of stinging lead guitar from producer Will Kimbrough, and guest appearances by Emmylou Harris, Steve Cropper, Rhiannon Giddens, Prine and Gauthier, this is also a real statement about Copeland's artistic prominence as well, claiming a place as a major cross-genre artist today.

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