The Soul Truth

The second-generation blues star and first-class belter just released her fourth album. She's been blessed with some great collaborations along the way--her last album was produced by Dr. John. The producer this time around is legendary guitarist Steve Cropper, who also adds his welcome soulful performing chops throught the album.

The album kicks off with "Breakin' Out," about a woman walking away from a lousy relationship. Its first line is "You better step aside, I'm a woman on a mission," and like all of the songs on The Soul Truth, Shemekia sings it likes she means it.

The showpiece for the album is Shemekia's sly commentary on the state of corporate broadcasting called "Who Stole My Radio?" Over a horn-puncuated upbeat soul backing track, she describes the sorry state of most radio these days evoking images of a cigar-chomping fatcat in L.A. dictatorially assigning music to station across the country. "Hey Mr. DJ, I'm on your side," she sings. "Rip up that playlist, forget those suits and ties."

With the task of fixing the radio industry's problems behind her, Shemekia gets down to her real serious business: attacking relationship problems. She takes on self-absorbed partners in "All About You" ("I can tell that we're all through, cause I could never love you half as much as you do"), goes after men with wandering eyes in "Better Not Touch" ("You can look, but you better not touch"), and offers encouragement for a significant other doing everything right on "Honey Do That Voodoo" ("Honey, do that voodoo that you do/Makes me feel special and right").

Steve Cropper's work both behind and in front of the control board is top-notch. The music is uniformly splendid, from the swinging horn parts on most of the songs to Cropper's sparse solo acoustic guitar accompaniment on the closing track "Something Heavy."

In addition to Steve Cropper's fine work on guitar, the backing musicians are fine players. Keyboardist Chuck Leavell (of Allman Brothers and Rolling Stones fame), Dobie Gray sings a duet on one track, and The Rascals' Felix Cavaliere also contributes some keyboards. And many of the horn arrangements and a good chunk of performing are by legendary session player Jim Horn.

All told, The Soul Truth is a well-constructed showcase for a stunning vocalist. If you like your rhythm & blues music lighthearted and fun, and enjoy a powerful vocal presence, then Shemekia Copeland's The Soul Truth will be a quite a good CD of the Week for you.

Mike Sauter, WYEP Music Director