When Shemekia Copeland delivered her debut recording Turn the Heat Up a few years ago, you could almost hear the collective rejoicing. Her timing seemed perfect: She filled a gap that many blues fans didnít even realize was there until it was sealed ó and then we wondered how we had managed without her. Here was a talent the genre really lacked: A very powerful, totally-in-control female vocalist who was not only the real McCoy, but just 19 at the time ó young enough to assure us that we could look forward to decades of future recordings and shows.
On Wicked Shemekia lays down a sundry range of styles, backed by a finely-tuned group of studio musicians including guitarist Jimmy Vivino. Her touring band helps out on a few tunes too, as do the Uptown Horns.
The opening cut, "Itís 2 A.M.," is a rocker that would sound right at home on a Rolling Stones record. "Wild, Wild Woman" is another hard charger. Shemekia does a great job on "Steamy Windows," a Tony Joe White tune with a funky backbeat which was previously recorded by Tina Turner.
But itís the slow songs that bring to light how much Shemekia has broadened her scope and honed her skills in the last few years. When she lets up on the throttle for "The Other Woman" and "The Fool Youíre Looking For," she plants herself firmly in a category above the mere shouters.
Wicked is not without a few good laughs either. Ruth Brown trades spurts of dialogue with Shemekia over some rollicking New Orleans piano on "If He Moves His Lips." (That, says Ruth, is how you can tell if a man is lying.) Youíve also gotta love lyrics that include phrases like "I canít take this botheration no more" and "Girl, I think your weaveís too tight."
Wicked is no sophomore slump. In fact, it serves as confirmation that itís time to roll out the red carpet and escort this young lady to her throne. She has the attention and respect of the blues world, and she is ready to begin her reign.
ó Ann Wickstrom