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Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens – What Have You Done, My Brother? [Daptone]

August 2, 2009

Texan soulquarian Erykah Badu may have laid claim to the title ‘analog girl in a digital world’ but if Daptone Records ever decides to put on a dress and call itself a ‘lady’ then Miss Badu may be in for some stiff competition. Perhaps it’s their resolution to ‘serve only the finest music analog tape can offer’ but as if by some voodoo ceremony, they’ve resurrected the thick, liquid sounds of Stax and Motown and pumped it directly into their Brooklyn-based studios.

After the success of soul revivalists Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings with 100 Days, 100 Nights and a never-ending string of crowd-pleasing festival performances, Daptone have dipped into their hidden stash of artists and pulled Naomi Shelton out of the bag. And she’s come out with her fists in the air, all powerhouse vocals and so much soul you could drown in it.

Previously known as Naomi Davis & The Knights, she released a string of 45’s on Daptone’s previous incarnation as Desco Records. But Shelton’s stepped out of the JB funk jacket of ‘41st Street Breakdown’ and, as the name of her new backing band gives it away, put on something a little bit more gospel. What Have You Done, My Brother? is a spiritual road to the church in Alabama where Shelton found her soul and her impressive lungs.

Like a mash-up of the almost inimitable Big Mama Thornton together with the gospel queen to end all gospel queens, Mahalia Jackson, Shelton’s coal fire voice shines on tracks like ‘Am I Asking Too Much?’ and ‘Trouble in My Way’. Shelton’s Gospel Queens keep a steady chorus, always ready to answer any questions.

The shunting guitar holds Naomi Shelton down on rock steady ‘What More Can I Do?’, but it’s partners-in-crime, the piano and the organ that give the record it’s old school flare, taking the foreground on opener ‘What Is This?’ and spiritual belter ‘Jordan River’. Beautifully closed with a cover of Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’, the first full-length release from Miss Shelton has been a long time comin’.

[Originally reviewed for Bearded Magazine]

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