Blues singer Shemekia Copeland, appearing at the Hamilton on Saturday night, wields her sultry, deep and gritty voice that is unique among her peers.
"I love that; that's the best compliment anybody's ever given me," she said, talking about her upcoming performance and the release of her latest CD, "33 1/3," this past Tuesday. "That's the nature of the business, you know, that people will compare you to somebody."
Truth is, "33 1/3" showcases a voice and sensibility that sounds years older than her -- she turned 33 on Sept. 10. And several of the album's songs (written by guitarist Oliver Wood and the record's producer, John Hahn) tackle themes that are not a sunny day at the beach.
"Every one of these songs tells a story about where I am in my life," Copeland noted. "They all connect to something that has happened to me, both good and bad. I've experienced a lot since I started making records and touring more than 15 years ago."
|» Where: The Hamilton, 600 14th St. NW|
|» When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday|
|» Info: $48.50 to $59; 202-787-1000; thehamiltondc.com|
At the Hamilton, she will perform material from the dish, such as "Lemon Pie," an ode addressing the ever-widening gap that divides today's haves and have-nots. "Ain't Gonna Be Your Tattoo" is a vocal narrative built around family violence.
The show is far from doom and gloom, however. Copeland belts out a song made famous by her father, Texas blues guitar legend Johnny Clyde Copeland, called "One More Time," and a lively tune by Sam Cooke, "Ain't That Good News."
"Blues is about telling stories, and every story is not sad," Copeland explained. "Blues gets a bad rap because of what it's called, you know? But I find that when people come to my shows, they come to be uplifted."
Joining Copeland on stage is the tour band she says "makes it possible for me to do what I do." It includes guitarists Arthur Neilson and Kenneth Scandlyn, bass player Kevin Jenkins and drummer Morris Roberts.
Copeland has learned a lot in her 33 years, and as she gets older, she becomes more comfortable saying -- and singing -- exactly what she feels. She is also grateful to audiences for being there with her.
"I think that when people come out to see me the first time, they know that I'm somebody they can walk up to and hug," she said. "That's good, because I'm a hugger, you know? I'm just like them."