Shemekia Copeland brings the blues to Norfolk March 14

During the darkest days of the pandemic, Shemekia Copeland’s anthem “Ain’t Got Time For Hate” was a balm to the chaos.

The song, a rallying cry for equality, justice and peace, got frequent airplay on 98.1 KZE, an independent radio station whose motto is “Celebrating musical diversity in the Litchfield Hills, the Berkshires, and the mid-Hudson Valley.”

As the daughter of legendary Texas blues guitarist and singer Johnny Copeland, she comes from blues royalty and has spent a lifetime honing her craft. Copeland grew up around music and first stepped onstage with her father at the age of 8 in her native Harlem. By the age of 18, she’d recorded her first album with the seminal blues label Alligator Records.

Since then, she’s recorded 10 albums, worked with producers Steve Cropper and Dr. John, earned eight Blues Music Awards and received multiple Grammy nominations. She’s sung with Bonnie Raitt, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana, Dr. John and James Cotton, and shared a bill with The Rolling Stones. She’s also performed with B.B. King, Mick Jagger, Buddy Guy, Trombone Shorty, Gary Clark Jr. and others at the White House for the Obamas. She earned the respect of soul legend Mavis Staples and was given Koko Taylor’s crown as the New Queen of the Blues by Taylor’s daughter, Cookie.

Her most recent Alligator Records release is “Done Come Too Far,” whose title suggests forging ahead rather than turning back. In her music, Copeland continues to explore her vision of America as a Black woman, a mother and an observant artist. She doesn’t shy away from difficult issues that plague America such as racism, hatred and gun violence, but she appeals to unity rather than being divisive.

“The country seems incredibly polarized when I watch TV. But when people come to my shows, we try to forget all that. I’d like people to just come together and share in the one thing we all have in common, our love of music and a good time. Forget the news, let’s party,” she said.

Copeland recorded “Done Come Too Far” in Nashville with musician-songwriter Will Kimbrough, who produced her two previous albums. The album features stellar slide work by guitarist Sonny Landreth as well as a country-blues duet with Cedric Burnside, grandson of legendary Mississippi blues musician R.L. Burnside. The album also features Hammond organ by Charles Hodges, whose tones adorn records by Al Green.

About her current record, she said: “‘Done Come Too Far’ is the last album in a trilogy that looks at America today and tries to figure out where we are and where we’re going. It’s direct, honest, and doesn’t pull any punches but essentially optimistic. And it rocks like hell.”

Whether collaborating with renowned blues musicians or appealing to her audiences, Copeland knows that music has the power to unify.

“I really believe music can be an antidote to all the hate that’s going around,” she said. “It’s hard to hate when you’re busy singing and dancing. There’s no better vehicle to convey love than a song.”

Inevitably, Copeland performs for people of different political persuasions as she tours the country that is increasingly divided. So how does she bring people together through music?

“There’s a very fine line between encouraging people to remain positive and lecturing,” she said. “Nobody likes a lecture. And I’m an entertainer, so my first job is to give people a good time. I think I’m fortunate in that the writers I work with really understand that.”

Now coming out of a long hibernation, Infinity Hall Norfolk is lucky to have Copeland grace its stage Thursday, March 14. She said: “I’ll be singing songs from throughout my career. You’ll get to meet me, know my family, dance, laugh, cry, laugh and dance again. And think about us. You and me. The way we really are, not the characters you see on TV.”

Tickets can be purchased at Infinity Hall’s website: www.infinityhall.com

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