The Nashville Blues Society
Review of “To Be In Your Company” by Sheryl and Don Crow, October 5, 2015
TO BE IN YOUR COMPANY-BORDERLINE-STEALIN’-WHY WE LOVE EACH OTHER-KNUCKLEHEAD-SWAMP WITCH-SOMETHIN’ NICE AND SWEET-WININ BOY BLUES-FRIEND-IF I WAS A BAD MAN-BESSIE-RIBBON OF DARKNESS-MOONSHINER-SUNNY AFTERNOON-I’D BE LONELY TOO-I’M JUST AN OLD CHUNK OF COAL-CROSSTOWN-I DREAM ABOUT YOU
Les Copeland is a native of British Columbia, and began playing guitar at age eleven. Largely self-taught, his first exposure to the blues was Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “London Calling” LP. He was a straight-blues player at first, then began to gradually expand by adding music from Wes Montgomery and Chuck Berry into his repertoire, and now he can play anything you’d wanna hear. That versatility pervades throughout his latest set for Earwig, “To Be In Your Company.” Over the eighteen cuts, there are several of Les’ originals, and he tells us that he writes from experience, and “people I know-some I love, and some I don’t!”
Strictly an acoustic affair, Les starts off with his original tribute to his friend and mentor, David “Honeyboy” Edwards. In fact, “To Be In Your Company” has Les praising the fact that he’s mentioned with the likes of “Honeyboy, Sonny Boy, and Little Walter, too!”
Of the songs that deal with those he loves, Les gives them the highest praise. “Stealin” was written as a love song for his wife, and her part in stealing his heart! The same can be said for the playful “Knucklehead,” as he and his wife are always giving “pet” names to each other. This one has some cool, unique-sounding guitar, too.
“Winin’ Boy Blues” is pure fun, which Les learned from a risque’ ditty by Jelly Roll Morton, effectively “cleaned up” for recording purposes! “If I Was A Bad Man” features some of Les’ best slide guitar playing on the set, too.
We had three favorites, too. Les gives a plaintive read of Gordon Lightfoot’s ode to a lost love, which casts that “Ribbon Of Darkness over me.” Life as seen thru the eyes of an ol’ “Moonshiner” has Les wondering, “if whiskey don’t kill me, I don’t know what will,” on this most excellent version of a Dylan song. And, Les has a lotta fun with Jim Stafford’s spooky tale of Black Water Hattie, the town pariah, (at least until she cures the town’s fever epidemic), “Swamp Witch.”
Les Copeland is another of those master storytellers who appreciates where the blues has been, and has a firm grip on where it’s headed. It is our real pleasure “To Be In Your Company,” Les! Until next time…
Reflections in Blue
Review of “To Be In Your Company” by Bill Wilson
Once more I have to tip my hat to Michael Frank, a man with a good ear…there are so few left in the world and especially in the world of blues. To Be In Your Company is Les Copeland’s second album, a delightful follow-up to the 2010 Earwig release of Don’t Let The Devil In and a tribute to his teacher, guru, working partner, friend and traveling companion of 15 years…Honeyboy Edwards. With the exception of background vocals by Cat Wells on cut #4 and Sari on cuts 7 & 15, this is Copeland…alone with his guitar.
I’d call this recording minimalistic, but it is so rich and full that the term is anything but a fit. His masterful work on guitar is a rarity in this modern age. He manages to draw more sound from the instrument with just his fingers and experience than most get from a wall of amps and boxes full of pedals. On the odd occasion that he does make use of any electronic aid, it is done properly and with a specific purpose. Most of the tunes on the album are written by Les, and pulled from personal experience. Aside from his masterful guitar work, exceptional songwriting and wonderful vocals, he is a delightful storyteller…a wordsmith with an uncanny ability to turn a phrase that will make an indelible mark on the heart and mind of the listener.
Les Copeland is an exceptional artist who has, to the delight of up and coming performers, chosen to share his talents as a guitar teacher. He is known in western Canada for performing with and promoting such legendary artists as Honeyboy Edwards, Jimmie D. Lane, Sonny Rhodes, Jimmie Lee Robinson and more.
This is one of those recordings I can listen to repeatedly, hearing something new and different with each time through. I recommend it wholeheartedly to any and all of my readers. With Christmas fast approaching I could recommend this as a great gift for that music lover that is on everyone’s list. This one belongs in every blues lover’s collection. In an age when it seems that everyone wants to change blues, blending it with everything under the sun with the intention of appealing to a younger audience it is so refreshing to hear blues and roots music played with passion and a love that runs so deep. From start to finish, To Be In Your Company is a winner.
Midwest Record Volume 38/Number 309
Review of “To Be In Your Company” by Chris Spector, September 4, 2015
An old white boy that was Honeyboy Edwards sidekick for 15 years shows he knows how to carry the show on his own. Playing Delta blues on his guitar, he sounds as back porch as Mississippi John Hurt as he carries on mostly solo. A charming, chop filled date with a tip of the cap to Edwards before going off on his own tangents about life’s characters, this is killer, Sunday afternoon festival blues that’s best enjoyed with a sweaty bottle of cold beer on a hot day. Must hearing for any open adult ears looking for a date loaded with heart.
Blues Underground Network
Review of “Don’t Let The Devil In” by John Vermilyea
My first thought after listening to Les Copeland’s extraordinary Debut Release, “Don’t Let The Devil In”, was that I really wished I had more knowledge about the Blues Artists and Styles for which he drew his inspiration for this Album. Like a fine tea, Les Copeland has steeped himself in the Blues for many years, walking often in the footsteps of legendary giants that have preceded him and that are still with us. His ability to interpret the Blues, especially the good old Blues of the past, is a gift, that he has learned to give back to his audience and his fans via his masterful Guitar picking and his genuine and unique vocal delivery.
You Can Tell Me When That Needing Time Sets In….
When it comes to Les Copeland, one must not make the mistake of thinking that just because he did not put out this Debut Album until he was 43, that he is just a new kid on the block, far from it. Les Copeland is an extremely well known and well respected artist, especially throughout Canada. He has promoted and toured with many of the greats, including the Legendary Honeyboy Edwards, for which he has toured with for 14 years, and whom is also featured as a guest performer on 2 of the Tracks on this release. Les Copeland is also very well rehearsed in not only the Blues, but in a wide variety of musical styles such as, jazz, Spanish flamenco, pop, and classical music. These are styles that you will find either a little or a lot of on “Don’t Let The Devil In”.
Got $100 Dollar Hair Sitting On A Nickel Head…
From the opening notes of “Don’t Let The Devil In”, you will be drawn in, and although you could leave at anytime, you will choose not to. “Don’t Let The Devil In” consists of 15 Tracks and clocks in at just over 55 minutes. Of the 15 Tracks 14 are originals with 1 Cover, “Anna Lee” (Robert Lee McCullum). “Don’t Let The Devil In” also has a very healthy dose of instrumentals, 4 in total, that showcase Copeland’s simply amazing Guitar skills. From the Slide Driven “Ry Cooder”, to the Jazz Infused “Ginseng Girl”, Copeland leaves you with no doubt as to his command of whatever type of guitar and style he chooses to play.
Beyond Copeland’s musical prowess, you will also be drawn in by not only his strong and unique vocals, but by his lyrics. His writing is such that you are quickly aware of the message he is trying to get across, because they are based on themes that are very familiar to all of us. One which really caught my attention was “Everyday People”, a whimsical piece, that leaves you chuckling to yourself, “Ain’t That The Truth”. The above line about the $100 Hair is from that song. Another attention getter was the opening track, “That Needing Time” which can be interpreted a number of ways, I happen to interpret it in a Spiritual way. And lets not forget the incredible song, “I’m the Little One”, done in the style of a children s ballad. Fabulous not only for how it is performed, but the fact he would include it on this Album.
I Will Feel The Wind And I Will See The Sun…
If there ever was an Album that was able to call out to you and draw you into it’s magical world, Les Copeland’s “Don’t Let The Devil In” is that Album. It will certainly place him in the company of many of the heavyweights in the Canadian as well as International Music Scene and is more than deserving of all the accolades I am sure it will receive. A finer Album for a Debut Release, you will not find. Finding a finer Album… Period, good luck…
Listening to “Don’t Let The Devil In” will leave you with a sense of satisfaction that is very rare in todays humdrum offerings. It will not only rejuvenate your spirit, but it will also renew your belief that their are those that walk amongst us that have our love of good music at heart.
This is a 5***** Album, bar none… Very Highly Recommended…
Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Review of “Don’t Let The Devil In” by Mark S. Tucker
Les Copeland is best known as a major exponent of the resonator guitar, as a bottleneck player, and as a blues writer of original materials that dance solidly within the genre while peeking over the fence…when he isn’t folkifying, that is, as on I’m the Little One.Don’t Let the Devil In, however, is never a firebreather but rather the kind of CD you want a cool fifth and a warm afternoon for. With elements of Kelly Joe Phelps, Hot Tuna, Joanne Kelly, Michael Hurley, base-most Grateful Dead, doses of the old Youngbloods solo LPs, and a lotta lotta lotta roots, Copeland’s a relic of bygone times, the sort of player-writer one would have heard on a rickety porch while traipsing down to Sunday services at the backcountry chapel.
On the disc tray photo, he’s playing a Herb Ellis guitar, and that may at first sound a tad incongruous, but the guy incorporates a rich background in what he does. The solo in Wet Paper Bag perfectly demonstrates that, the sort of lead Ellis would’ve spun out while sitting in with Barney Kessell. And when the instrumental Ry Cooder slides out of the speakers, you’ll understand perfectly why the song is titled as it is. On only a third of this release is Copeland accompanied (by the legendary Honeyboy Edwards and Earwig label prezdawg Michael Frank), otherwise working as singleton for an intimate feel that’s nonetheless wide open. Then the title cut embraces a dark descending chord composition sounding like a tune that got lost on the cutting room floor during the making of Nick Drake’s cloudy Pink Moon.
Canada sure as hell knows its grit from its sunflowers when it comes to roots music, and Copeland, issuing from a town Natively named for the grizzly bear (Kelowna), understands when to growl and when to rumble while treading an earthy and sometimes ribald course in his lyrics. He more frequently, though, contemplates the wistful and melancholic in tunes like Distant Train, leaning back in a sigh and a memory. But, oh sweet Jesus, that playing! Without ever requiring a single pedal or blaring volume, it’s riveting as hell and will send newbies and pros alike scampering to the masters once more for re-acquaintance with Jurassic elements that never grow old but are all too readily ignored.