Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens
Naomi was originally from Alabama where she grew up immersed in the church. Now in her seventies she moved to Brooklyn 40 years ago where she became a night club singer, as well as continuing her gospel work, forming the Gospel Queens when she met up with long time friend Cliff Driver. They came to the attention of record producer Gabriel Roth who went on to form Daptone records which led to their 2009 recording debut. She has a deep, raspy voice, somewhat in the style of Mavis Staples, and combines effectively with the Queens - Bobby Jean Gant, Edna Johnson and newcomer Angel McKenzie. Her backing band was led last night by bass player Fred Watson, formerly with James Brown's JBs.
After a couple of numbers by the backing band (Tighten Up and Pass The Peas), featuring the bass playing of Fred Watson, the group kicked off with Lift My Burden. The quartet showed their vocal harmonies to good effect on this, and the uplifting Jordan River. Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come was delivered with passion while the uptempo I Earn Mine was reminiscent of the Isley Brother's Shout. What Have You Done My Brother included call and response with the Queens while Sinner, from their latest album, had a slight reggae feel to it. The three Gospel Queens took the lead on the next three songs, all of them showing off their superb soul drenched voices, with He Knows My Name (Bobby Jean Gant), Too Many Turn Away (Angel McKenzie) and Hold My Hand ( Edna Johnson). Then it was the turn of the audience to get involved with the rousing Am I Asking Too Much.
Naomi knows how to handle an audience, even from a wheelchair, and slowed things down with Etta James's At Last, before launching into Cold World and, in her words, taking things to a higher level, with Higher Ground and Reach Out And Touch, which brought a great response from the predominantly female gospel fans in the audience. Finally Naomi and her Queens sang What More Can I Do, which brought the audience to its feet.
All in all this was an excellent show by four female gospel singers who combined beautifully together and produced soul music of the highest order. Daptone may be best known for the powerhouse soul of the likes of Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, but Naomi is quite a powerhouse herself and so are her Brooklyn Queens. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yM5mqfG2Vk