"Wanted: Queen of the Blues." Ever since the crown was vacated by the able but aging Koko Taylor, the blues world has been looking for a successor worthy of the name. Every few years a new contender steps forth -- Deborah Coleman and Susan Tedeschi, recently -- some sharpshooter who has a little moxie but doesn't, in the final analysis, kick near enough ass. Enter Shemekia Copeland. Daughter of legendary Texas bluesman Johnny Copeland, Shemekia stood critics on their collective ear with 1998's debut Turn the Heat Up
, and with Wicked
, she scores again. The 21-year-old blues belter from the streets of Harlem burns white hot on Wicked
, singing with enough power to knock you flat on your back and enough purr to make you want to stay there. Her band is solid, the production smart, the song selection suitably diverse, but the story here is Copeland's undeniable presence
, reflecting a confidence that belies her young age. From the house-rockin' confessional "Whole Lotta Water" and weary plea of "The Fool You're Looking For" to the tag-team repartee of Ruth Brown and Copeland on the rollicking "If He Moves His Lips," Shemekia shines. Polish up the crown, folks. The queen has arrived.