During these economically challenging times, who better to voice the frustrations of the people than Shemekia Copeland, the Queen of the Blues?
After all, Copeland isn't immune to life's hardships, either.
Red, white and blues
When the feisty singer comes to the Arden Gild Hall Friday night as part of her fall tour, she'll certainly strike a nerve with the audience with tunes from her new album, "33 1/3," which touches on hot-button issues like domestic abuse ("Ain't Gonna Be Your Tattoo") to financial inequality ("Lemon Pie"). And the latter topic really, really gets her blood boiling, especially since many Americans can't afford to buy a house these days.
"Like most Americans, [I'm] a little agitated and angry," fumed Copeland, born in Harlem, N.Y., who currently lives in Chicago, Ill. "We weren't all born into privilege, some of us have had to work our whole lives. I know that. I'm one of them."
The 33-year-old added, "My brother, he works to support his children. He works 70 hours a week and still has a hard time making it sometimes. It's a crazy world we're living in sometimes. I think about that — everybody struggling and there's a bunch of folks in this country that think that you should be struggling and they shouldn't. And that's not cool."
Powered by the people
What's cool to Copeland is the glowing response she's received from fans for "33 1/3" during this fall tour. Though the subject matter on "33 1/3" is a bit sensitive, Copeland is proud she decided to travel this path. She's also encouraged by her fans' glowing support towards the new album.
"There are so many songs we're getting a good response from like 'Ain't Gonna Be Your Tattoo,' which is basically about domestic violence," she said. "People are really responding to that, not just women, but men. I find it to be pretty amazing how people respond to these things."
Instrumental to the success of the new album is Copeland's talented team of longtime songwriters who penned most of the project.
"I've been writing with the same songwriters for many, many years. They're writers who are way better writers than I am. I prefer to use a song from a great songwriter than something that I wrote that wasn't as great," Copeland explained.
'A tribute to vinyl'
The album title "33 1/3" is more than a reference to Copeland's current age since it's also "a tribute to vinyl," she explained. Moreover, 33 1/3 represents the revolutions per minute (or speed) that some vinyl records were played at.
And since Copeland's new album title is partly inspired by vinyl, she released the project on vinyl as well. She even added a cherry on top, too.
"The cool thing about my album is that it's all recycled vinyl, so there's no one album [that looks] alike," beamed Copeland. "They're all different colors and different textures and they're pretty cool. Some of [the records] are like yellow and you can see right through it, or some of them look like marble. They're real cool looking."
Recognizing indie rock bands and other musical acts have been releasing albums on vinyl the last few years, Copeland says this practice is due to history repeating itself.
"Vinyl never should've left," she said. "Everybody was so excited about the cool, crisp sound of CD. But now everybody wants the warm sound of vinyl. It's the same thing with style — it eventually comes back."
WHAT Shemekia Copeland in concert
WHEN Friday, Nov. 2
WHERE Arden Gild Hall, 2126 The Highway, Arden
COST $25 member; $30 general admission
INFO ardenclub.org or 475-3126