Shemekia Copeland – Done Come Too Far | Album Review

Shemekia Copeland – Done Come Too Far

Alligator Records – 2022

12 tracks; 46 minutes

Those who thought that Shemekia Copeland’s last album Uncivil War was hard hitting will find that she has even more to say this time around! Once again working with producer Will Kimbrough in Nashville, Shemekia pours her heart and soul into these songs, mainly written by Will and Shemekia’s long-term manager John Hahn, tackling contemporary issues like racism, gun violence and child abuse, as well as the historic theme of slavery. The core band throughout is Will on guitar, Lex Price on bass and Pete Abbott on drums, with guest spots from a host of guitarists: Sonny Landreth, Kenny Brown, Kevin Gordon, Oliver Wood, Aaron Lee Tasjan and Pat Sansone (who also plays keyboards); other musicians are B3 giant Charles Hodges, Cedric Burnside on guitar and vocals, Joe Cabral on sax, Cedric Watson on fiddle and African gourd banjo, André Michot on accordion and triangle, Washboard Chaz, Fats Kaplin on fiddle and pedal steel and backing vocalists Lisa Oliver Gray, Megan Murray and Telisha Williams.

The first four tracks really hit hard, each one with a strong message. “Too Far To Be Gone” references the incident when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white person. Shemekia insists that people of colour have “come too far to be gone; if you think we’re stopping you got it wrong”, played over a rocking tune fuelled by Will’s guitar and Sonny Landreth’s slippery slide work. “Pink Turns To Red” tackles gun violence head-on, another heavy rocker, this time with Kevin Gordon and Will fuelling the tragic tale of another shooting in a school. Shemekia is thinking how she will have “The Talk” with her child, that difficult conversation in which you have to tell your child never to get into a situation where they might end up getting shot: “as sure as you’re black there’s a target on your back”. After that harrowing and dramatic performance Shemekia goes back to the early days of slavery in “Gullah Geechee”, aided by African instruments and a mournful backing choir, her man being dragged away by the slavers the very day of their wedding, another powerful song and performance. Later in the album the quiet, acoustic “The Dolls Are Sleeping” tackles child abuse in a stark and moving performance and Cedric Burnside duets with Shemekia on the title track “Done Come Too Far” that uses some of the same lyrics as the opening track in a Delta blues re-working of the theme of equal rights.

Susan Werner’s “Why Why Why” comes from an album entitled Flyover Country and the band strikes an appropriate country feel for a ‘weepie’ about infidelity, followed immediately by “Fried Catfish And Bibles” which combines country with Cajun, courtesy of fiddle, accordion and washboard, on a tale of a backwoods cabin where both items are equally available. Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Barefoot In Heaven” combines those themes in a blues and country-tinged tune that foresees the author making it to Paradise: “When I get to Heaven, the people tell me, I get a halo, some wings and a harp. That’s well and good but what I want to hear is Sister Rosetta Tharpe”! Shemekia goes full Country on the autobiographical “Fell In Love With A Honky”, a comic song in which her country guy seems to be swapping Hank for Otis and, after all “love is much bigger than plain old black and white”.“If your head is small, barely got an IQ, or you can look like Einstein, here’s what you do” sings Shemekia as she offers some cynical advice to wanna-be pop stars over a funky backbeat in “Dumb It Down”. Shemekia always records a track by her late father, Johnny Clyde Copeland, and this time it’s “Nobody But You”, just the core trio behind her to close the album with a splendid, rocking blues shuffle.

This is a hugely impressive effort from Shemekia and her team, even better than Uncivil War, which was nominated for a Grammy. This one should be a shoe-in come Awards time!

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