Since her 1998 debut, Turn The Heat Up, Shemekia Copeland has built her career the old fashioned way–making great albums built on solid compositions and stellar musicianship and then taking those albums on the road and connecting with audiences around the world. Since 2000’s sophomore album Wicked, she’s been in collaboration with manager/songwriter John Hahn and his compositions have gradually shifted into more overtly political works, reflecting the challenges and terrors of the past and present. 2018’s America’s Child and 2020’s Uncivil War, both produced by Will Kimbrough, were bold collections that confronted the racism, xenophobia, and spiritual ills permeating, specifically, the United States. These albums focused and diversified both her messaging and sound, but the brand new Alligator Records release Done Come Too Far ups the ante in all of the best ways.

Done Come Too Far gives plenty of what Copeland’s career was built on: bluesy soul. The album’s opener, “Too Far To Be Gone,” “Pink Turns to Red,” and the title track, a duet with the Grammy-nominated Cedric Burnside, all serve signature Copeland with smoldering guitar work and rock solid grooves undergirding her signature vocal blasts. “The Talk,” “Barefoot in Heaven,” and a cover of one of her her father Johnny Copeland’s compositions, “Nobody But You,” are mid-tempo blues burners that situate her and the musicians in a musical pocket that feels like it should never end. But don’t think Copeland is falling into the traps of an album formula. Not by any stretch. 

The album expands Copeland and her base, introducing sounds not heard on her prior work. “Gullah Geechee” is a stirring invocation of Gullah Geechee culture that utilizes handclaps, foot stomps, and call and response vocals to transport the listener into this West African tradition that survives to this day. She explores Cajun music on the ecstatic “Fried Catfish and Bibles,” and country on the witty and humorous “Feel In Love with Honky.”  

It’s on Susan Werner’s “Why, Why, Why,” however, that Copeland delivers her most exquisite performance to date. It is pure, heart-wrenching devastation fused with a different kind of vulnerability than we’ve heard from her before which culminates into three minutes of beauty that comes and goes far too quickly. 

Artists like Shemekia Copeland, who aren’t songwriters or producers, don’t always tend to get the credit they deserve for being the drivers of their creative visions, but it’s necessary to bow to an artist who has assembled the right producer and writers to facilitate her in making music that she can sink her teeth into and make us all feel it. 

Tim Dillinger, Editorial Content Manager