In the hands of Shemekia Copeland -- or, more precisely, in her pipes -- old-school R&B relives its wild youth. The sass and scorch of early Etta James and the relentless drive of a mid-'60s Aretha bloom in the work of this Harlem-born daughter of the late Texas blues legend, guitarist Johnny Copeland. Still in her early 20s, she's an established presence at major festivals and a regular recipient of W.C. Handy Awards, and she snagged a Grammy nomination for Wicked, her 2000 release. Copeland's full-throated vocals are intertwined with the sort of finesse that almost surely would have netted her a steady stream of urban hits, if she'd been around a few decades ago. Opening her dad's gigs since she was 16, Copeland delivers with authority and style beyond her years, and is likely to reign as an R&B queen for a long while.
On Copeland's third release, 2002's Talking to Strangers, Dr. John's subtle production touches add an occasional dash of New Orleans flavor to a sound that, befitting Copeland, builds a solid bridge between R&B's glory days and the present.