Soul music, shares a rather intimate relationship with gospel music; after all, 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 they had material largely based around inspirational messages contained within gospel like the legendary Curtis Mayfield or The Staples Singers.
Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens are part of that tradition as they craft a sound that is obviously informed by gospel and is based around the genre’s inspirational messages of the power of faith in the most difficult of times. And from listening to Shelton’s voice, there’s a sense of listening to a church elder tell it how it is, from a place of profound and humbling experiences. But just as important, Shelton commands your attention, as you’ll hear on “Sinner,” the first single off the group’s sophomore effort, and first in six years, Cold World. Certainly, when you hear the song, it’s message is simple and yet very powerful — everyone is a sinner, and it’s a matter of seeking forgiveness and the comfort of the higher power.
Sonically, the track, like the rest of the album was recorded on eight track tape, contains a tight groove by her backing band which consists of Brother Cliff Driver who has worked with the likes of Baby Washington, Little Willie John, King Curtis, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and Solomon Burke; bassist Fred Thomas, who played with James Brown; Jimmy Hill, who played with Wilson Pickett; 17 year-old Max Shrager, who composed two of the new album’s tracks; and drummer Mikey Post, who actually works for Daptone Records. Completing the band is her incredible backing singers Edna Johnson and Bobbie Jean Gant and Angel McKenzie, who provide the soulful responses to Shelton’s calls.
I’ve seen them open for Charles Bradley, and they were pretty fantastic. They’ll be touring to support the new effort, so go and catch them — and the tour includes a stop at Rough Trade Records on the 29th.