Naomi Shelton an the Gospel Queens
July 29, 2014
Soul music as we know it (and love it) shares a rather intimate relationship with the church and gospel music; after all, some of soul music’s most legendary artists including the likes of Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Dionne Warwick, Whitney Houston, Gladys Knight, Teddy Riley, Mary J. Blige, and countless others have all got their start singing gospel in church. Or in the case of Curtis Mayfield’s early work, The Staple Singers and a few others, their work was largely based around the inspirational and hopeful messages contained within gospel and were more spiritual than outright religious. And Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens are a part of that very lengthy tradition. In fact, lyrically their material manages to be profoundly inspirational as it often talks about the power of faith in times of most desperate needs – such as “Cold World,” the album title track to their latest album, Cold World which says that Jesus will be your friend in your time of need.
Just like on their recorded material, Shelton and her Gospel Queens are commanding presences in person who evoke several things simultaneously such as awe, wisdom and respect, as you would expect a church elder. And because of that, the material is not only lived in, it’s felt and comes from a very real place. The struggles of a song like “Sinner” are not just Shelton’s struggles but they’re easily ours. There’s no judgement or condemnation, just a simple message of how faith can push you forward and can make you a fuller person.
Just the other day, Naomi Shelton played an hour set at Rough Trade to celebrate the release of their latest release, Cold World. And the set was comprised of a few songs from the album – namely “Sinner,” “Cold World” “Heaven Is Mine,” some previously released material and a church standard “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand.” Of course, Shelton delivers her vocals with a world-weary wisdom that you can hear in her raspy drawl that always manages to possess a quiet, unflinching hope. And her backing singers, the Gospel Queens (which consist of Edna Johnson, Bobbie Jean Gant and Angel McKenzie) provide the soulful responses to Shelton’s calls. And the backing band which included Brother Cliff Driver, played with an incredibly funky groove that had everyone in the joint doing a happy 2 step – including one guy who looked as though he walked out of 1962. But in reality Shelton and her Gospel Queens was taking us all to church and it was incredible.
Check out some photos below.
For these photos and more check out the Flickr set here: