Les Copeland

Don’t Let The Devil In
Les Copeland
Les Copeland

A new wrinkle on the proverbial “overnight sensation after 20 years on the road,” Les Copeland’s “debut” comes after eight albums released on his own and sold-out bandstands over the course of 16 years. But even the clout of an indie blues label will help introduce this British Columbian to an international audience. And bravo to that.

The opening original, “That Needing Time,” is reminiscent of Blind Willie Johnson, with two tracks of overdubbed guitar – one shadowing Copeland’s passionate vocal. The catchy, melodic instrumental that follows is titled “Ry Cooder” and played, naturally, on slide.

The 51-year-old is far from a purist in terms of inf luences or equipment. He shifts gears to the swing instrumental “Ginseng Girl” and shows his folk side on the eerie “Silently” – the former played on an Aria Pro 2 Herb Ellis Model, the latter on a small-bodied Godin through a ’70s Twin Reverb.

It’s refreshing to find a “blues” artist who lists his half-dozen chief inf luences (chronological ly) as Johnny Winter, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Django Reinhardt, Carlos Montoya, Mississippi John Hurt, Joe Pass, and Honeyboy Edwards (yes, that’s seven, but who’s counting?). The 95-year-old Edwards, whom he credits as “the greatest inf luence on my playing, even though he and I did not meet until I was 36,” duets on two tunes, and although they’re considerably “looser” than Copeland’s solo tracks, they add plenty of charm.

Label head Michael Frank, who blows some fine acoustic harmonica on the haunting title cut, is to be commended for exposing a worldclass singer, songwriter, and guitarist to those of us who haven’t been fortunate enough to previously cross paths with him.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’10 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.