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Blues Foundation Names Shemekia Copeland Entertainer Of The Year, And More

Mike White
Shemekia Copeland, winner of three 2021 Blues Music Awards.

Shemekia Copeland, the socially conscious second-generation blues singer with strong ties to Nashville and Americana music, ascended to her highest career plateau yet on Sunday by winning the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Award at the Blues Foundation’s 42nd Blues Music Awards. She led all winners with two other trophies: Contemporary Female Blues Artist and Contemporary Blues Album for her passionate 2020 release Uncivil War

Copeland, daughter of the late Harlem-based guitar player and singer Johnny Clyde Copeland, burst onto the blues scene before she turned 20 years old after being signed to Chicago's Alligator Records. She won her first of many Blues Music Awards in 2001. In recent years, she's directly taken on America's racial and political divides with acclaimed albums America's Child and Uncivil War, which brought on board Nashville musicians including producer Will Kimbrough.

Double award winner Christone “Kingfish” Ingram from Clarksdale, MS kept the spotlight on the blues’ rising generation, as the 22-year-old built on his triumphant five-award 2020 with two prizes, that of Guitarist of the Year and Contemporary Blues Male Artist. He will release his second album in late July, and he performed on the taped virtual webcast. The Blues Foundation held its annual awards online for the second year running, hosted this year by L.A.-based BigLlou Johnson.

Veterans were in the mix in a big way however, as 87-year-old Bobby Rush followed up his Grammy Award for his album Rawer Than Raw with Sunday’s Acoustic Blues Album of the Year award. The Soul Blues Female Artist award went to soul and R&B icon Bettye LaVette. And five-decade veterans Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite shared two trophies for their rollicking 100 Years Of Blues, which won Traditional Blues Album and the night’s overall Album of the Year. 

Curtis Salgado, recently a guest on WMOT, was named the Contemporary Soul Blues Male Artist Of The Year for the sixth time.

A complete list of winners follows:

B.B. King Entertainer
Shemekia Copeland

Band of the Year
Rick Estrin & The Nightcats

Best Emerging Artist Album
King Solomon Hicks

Blues Rock Album
Mike Zito and Friends – Rock ‘n’ Roll: A Tribute to Chuck Berry
Mike Zito

Soul Blues Album
That’s What I Heard
Robert Cray Band

Traditional Blues Album
100 Years of Blues
Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite

Contemporary Blues Female Artist
Shemekia Copeland

Soul Blues Female Artist
Bettye LaVette

Traditional Blues Female Artist
Rory Block

Instrumentalist – Bass
Danielle Nicole

Instrumentalist – Guitar
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Instrumentalist – Horn
Jimmy Carpenter

Album of the Year
100 Years of Blues
Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite

Song of the Year
“All Out of Tears” written by Walter Trout, Marie Trout, and Teeny Tucker

Acoustic Blues Album
Rawer Than Raw
Bobby Rush

Contemporary Blues Album
Uncivil War
Shemekia Copeland

Acoustic Blues Artist
Keb’ Mo’

Blues Rock Artist
Mike Zito

Contemporary Blues Male Artist
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Soul Blues Male Artist
Curtis Salgado

Traditional Blues Male Artist
John Primer

Instrumentalist – Drums
Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith

Instrumentalist – Harmonica
Kim Wilson

Instrumentalist – Piano
Anthony Geraci

Instrumentalist – Vocals
Ruthie Foster

Craig Havighurst is WMOT's editorial director and host of The String, a weekly interview show airing Mondays at 8 pm, repeating Sundays at 7 am. He also co-hosts The Old Fashioned on Saturdays at 9 am and Tuesdays at 8 pm. Threads and Instagram: @chavighurst. Email: craig@wmot.org