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Shemekia Copeland explores the blues’ seedier side with “Outskirts of Love”

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REVIEW WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN

bbingaman@21st-centurymedia.com

Twitter @brianbingaman

It’s a good thing two-time Grammy nominee Shemekia Copeland is such a captivating powerhouse singer. Otherwise, you might need a shower to rinse off the grit contained in her brand new album, “Outskirts of Love.”

The cover image of a motel (with the sign’s neon “O” burned out, of course) and a sign advertising “Adults only; hourly rates,” already warns you that you are not heading to the safe, comfortable  part of town.

Most of the songs contain unsettling narratives of revenge, murder, poverty and philandering, sometimes sung in a sly, playful manner. “Drivin’ Out of Nashville” asserts incestuously that “country music ain’t nothing but the blues with a twang.” Jesse Winchester’s “Isn’t That So” comes across as a gospel-in-reverse hall pass to behave badly, especially coming right after the song “I Feel A Sin Coming On” on the album.

But there’s serious gold in them there blues. Check her extra-soulful interpretations of ZZ Top’s “Jesus Just Left Chicago” (with Top’s Billy Gibbons on guitar, yet), Creedence Clearwater Revivial’s “Long As I Can See the Light” and Albert King’s “Wrapped up in Love Again.” That last part of the album suggests there’s hope for the seemingly unredeemable.

She also pays tribute to her blues-singing father, the late Johnny Clyde Copeland, with a rendition of “Devil’s Hand.”

Blues singer Shemekia Copeland in concert. Photo by Suzanne Foschino.

Blues singer Shemekia Copeland in concert. Photo by Suzanne Foschino.

If you haven’t caught Copeland at a past Philadelphia Folk Festival, or this year’s Blast Furnace Blues Festival in Bethlehem, she’ll be in town this week, no doubt itching to share this new batch of songs.

IF YOU GO

What: Shemekia Copeland in concert.

When: 8 p.m. Oct. 1.

Where: Sellersville Theater 1894, 24 W. Temple Ave., at Main Street, Sellersville.

Tickets: $29.50 and $45.

Info.: Call (215) 257-5808 or visit www.st94.com.

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