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Shemekia Copeland bringing new music, new viewpoint to headline performance at North Liberty Blues & BBQ

MIKE WHITE PHOTO

Shemekia Copeland of Chicago will cook up some powerhouse blues Saturday during the North Liberty Blues & BBQ Festival in Centennial Park.
MIKE WHITE PHOTO Shemekia Copeland of Chicago will cook up some powerhouse blues Saturday during the North Liberty Blues & BBQ Festival in Centennial Park.

It’s evident who inspired much of Shemekia Copeland’s latest album, “American Child,” after listening to the leadoff track, “Ain’t Got Time to Hate.”

“Where’s your little angel wings/my sweet baby child/and how you gonna live/in a world gone wild.”

Copeland’s 2-year-old son, Johnny, changed the blues singer’s outlook on life.

“So much changed after he arrived,” Copeland, 40, said by phone from her Chicago home. “My music has definitely been impacted by him. You can hear that on this album. It all happened organically.”

Copeland — who headlines Saturday’s North Liberty Blues and BBQ at Centennial Park — explores a variety of issues on the album. The gritty “America’s Child” tackles racism on “Would You Take My Blood,” the state of a bewildering nation on “Ain’t Got Time for Hate” and a poetic take on individuality with “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.”

The latter, written by the Kinks’ Ray Davies, struck an immediate chord with Copeland.

“I love that song because my main goal in life has been to not be like everyone else,” Copeland said. “I’ve always strived to be an original. My mom and dad preached that to me since I was little. I was told to do my own thing.”

The three-time Grammy nominee, who has opened for The Rolling Stones and performed in the White House for President Barack Obama, does just that with an array of gifted guest stars. Emmylou Harris lends her ethereal vocals to “Ain’t Got Time for Hate.”

“Will Kimbrough, who produced the album, played it for Emmylou and she said, ‘I could sing on this,’” Copeland said. “Who wouldn’t want someone like Emmylou to sing on their album?”

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Iconic singer-songwriter John Prine duets with Copeland on a version of his blues classic “Great Rain.”

“John was on a bill that I was on ... and he came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I really like your shoes.’ One thing led to another, and he and I started chatting and he ended up on my album.”

Carolina Chocolate Drops leader Rhiannon Giddens was told that Copeland is a big fan. “She ended up saying that she’s a big fan of mine so we got together to record ‘Smoked Ham and Peaches.’ That’s one of my favorite songs on the record,” Copeland said.

Despite all the guest stars, “American Child” is about Copeland, a soulful, dynamic blues vocalist with eight albums in her 20-plus year career.

“I’m in a very good place right now,” Copeland said. “I know what I want as a musician. I love working with Will Kimbrough, who is a genius producer. He was the perfect person to produce ‘American Child.’ Will, John Hahn (songwriter and Copeland’s longtime manager) and me are the dream team. This is what I was meant to do.”

Copeland is the daughter of legendary blues guitarist Johnny Copeland. She sang with her father onstage for the first time when she was just 8 years old at New York’s Cotton Club. She toured with her father until his death in 1997. The following year, Copeland, then 19, made her first album, “Turn the Heat Up.”

All of her albums feature one of her father’s songs.

“It’s my way of paying tribute to my father, who was such a great songwriter,” she said. “I do all that I can to keep his music and spirit alive.”

Get Out!

WHAT: North Liberty Blues & BBQ

WHERE: Centennial Park, 1565 St. Andrews Dr., North Liberty

WHEN: Saturday (7/13)

EVENTS: 9 to 10:30 a.m. Turkey Trot 10K, 5K, 1-mile family run; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Kids’ Pit and activities, ages 2 to 18; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. food vendors and beverage garden; noon to 10:30 p.m. music; bring seating; no pets, no outside food and drink, no smoking

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BANDS: noon to 1 p.m. Brian Johannesen; 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. Joe & Vicki Price; 3:15 to 4:45 p.m. Kevin Burt; 5:15 to 6:45 p.m. Gloria Hardiman & Johnny Kilowatt’s Monday Night All-Stars; 7:15 to 8:30 p.m. Southern Culture on the Skids; 9 to 10:30 p.m. Shemekia Copeland

ADMISSION: Free

DETAILS: Northlibertyblues.org/schedule/

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