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.