Shemekia Copeland: 33 1/3

Blues singer Shemekia Copeland will return on September 25th with 33 1/3. With a guest appearance by legendary guitarist Buddy Guy and covers of songs originally recorded by Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke and Lucinda Williams, the album has both a classic and contemporary blues sound. Shemekia’s voice is so strong she could sing anything, but the blues is definitely her forte.

“Lemon Pie” is a fantastic start. Electric guitar seers the edges of the blues-rock melody as Shemekia wails about the poor man’s (and the struggling middle class’) plight.

A slowed down, blues revamp of Lucinda Williams’ “Can’t Let Go” follows. It’s a solid cover, but pales in comparison to Lucinda’s original. Of course, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is such a classic album, it’s difficult for any artist to match.

Buddy Guy lends his exquisite guitar to the battered woman’s escape anthem “Ain’t Gonna Be Your Tattoo.” I had the privilege of seeing Buddy and Shemekia perform at Mountain Stage a few years ago and it was one of the best concerts of my life. The song is the perfect pairing of these two colossal talents.

“A Woman” is a sultry blues ballad and “I’ll Sing the Blues” rumbles and sways beneath Shemekia’s substantial howl.

The latter half of the album is pleasant but nothing really stands out until the finale. Shemekia’s fierce voice drops to a pretty hush on a simple but very lovely cover of Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight.”

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Shemekia Copeland Official Site

Various Artists: Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan

Brendan‘s back with a review of Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan. Amnesty International’s four-disc tribute to Dylan’s substantial catalogue was recently released in honor of the human rights organization’s 50th anniversary. The lengthy tribute features Dylan covers by Adele, Angelique Kidjo, Flogging Molly, The Gaslight Anthem, K’naan, Mariachi El Bronx, My Chemical Romance, Pete Seeger, Patti Smith, Queens of the Stone Age, Sinead O’Connor and many more.

There is something for everybody on this four-disc set of Bob Dylan covers. Unfortunately, this also means there will be some songs that don’t suit your tastes. For me, that dissatisfaction is exemplified by offerings by Ke$ha and Cage The Elephant. Eventually, I whittled the collection down to a core of 30 great renditions, some of which I’ll highlight here.

Easily topping my list is Diana Krall’s gorgeous version of “A Simple Twist of Fate.” As always, Krall’s voice drips with honey and inflects the lyrics with tenderness. Incidentally, if you haven’t heard her version of “A Case of You,” do yourself a favor and track it down.

Joan Baez’s voice manages to be revelatory every time I hear her, and her version of “Seven Curses” is beautiful.

I had not heard much by Dierks Bentley before, but his banjo-accompanied version of “Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)” stands out from the pack.

Kris Kristofferson’s voice has matured into one that sounds eerily similar to Leonard Cohen’s and his version of “Quinn the Eskimo” is another highlight of the collection.

Mark Knopfler gives “Restless Farewell” a welcome Celtic flavor, while Flogging Molly are at their boisterous best on “The Times They Are A-Changin.”

Mick Hucknall’s “One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)” is almost an impersonation of Dylan but still a memorable track, and the instantly recognizable voice of Brett Dennen offers up an enthusiastic “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”

Sting’s “Girl From the North Country” is a welcome addition, as is the unique instrumental “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” performed by Kronos Quartet.

I love Bryan Ferry’s voice and his “Bob Dylan’s Dream” is so good, I’m excited to hear his 2006 album Dylanesque – for which the track apparently wasn’t good enough.

Other names on the tribute I’d previously been unfamiliar with, but hope to hear more from are: The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Tom Morello, Thea Gilmore, Ximena Sarinana, We Are Augustines, Darren Kriss, and The Belle Brigade.

We were not granted permission to share an mp3, but you can hear samples at the links below…

Buy @ Amazon

Buy @ Amnesty International

Johnny Cash: The Best Of The Johnny Cash Show DVD

The new DVD The Best Of The Johnny Cash Show 1969-1971 collects some of the top performances from the man in black’s television show. If you’re unfamiliar with the show, all you need to know is that the DVD shows Cash, his wife June Carter, and artists like Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, George Jones, Neil Young, Creedance Clearwater Revival, Loretta Lynn, Ray Charles, and Roy Orbison performing some of their classic hits. Both as individuals and occasionally as duets with their host Cash.

Highlights include Cash’s opening “I Walk The Line”, young Bob Dylan’s “I Threw It All Away”, George Jones’ “She Thinks I Still Care”, Neil Young’s “The Needle & The Damage Done”, John Fogerty & CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising”, Loretta Lynn’s “I Know How”, Ray Charles’ soulful cover of “Ring Of Fire”, Roy Orbison’s “Crying”, and Cash’s rousing finale of “A Boy Named Sue”.

Also of note are Cash’s duets with wife June Caster Cash on “Jackson”, with George Jones on “White Lightning”, and especially the beautiful duet with Joni Mitchell on “The Long Black Veil”.

Here’s a video of Cash performing “A Boy Named Sue”, though it doesn’t appear to be the same clip as on the DVD.

Johnny Cash – A Boy Named Sue (video)

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