Shemekia Copeland is a woman on the verge of becoming the Next Big Thing. Not yet out of her twenties, she's just turned out a landmark piece of work, the recently released The Soul Truth. On her fourth try, this daughter of the late Texas blues icon Johnny Clyde Copeland adds to an already highly praised catalog a disc that, if justice prevails, will push this Harlem-bred soul shouter beyond her usual W.C. Handy Awards and straight toward Grammy gold. If Norah Jones could reconnect the mainstream with the pleasures of jazz vocals, Truth may single-handedly rescue classic R&B and soul from its "retro" status and breathe new commercial life into these genres.
Well-established as a spitfire of the early Aretha Franklin and Etta James schools, Copeland places all that attitude in a template of pre-disco '70s soul, a sound that in its prime spoke to newfound outlooks for people -- particularly for women of color. In Copeland's hands, it's material that's tailor-made for a powerful live show. If the new disc gets its propers, the next time Ms. C. hits town, it'll be in a concert hall.