Queen Esther
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Queen Esther

New York City, New York, United States | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Band Americana Alternative

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This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Nov
16
Queen Esther @ The Invisible Dog

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Oct
07
Queen Esther @ A-Trane

Berlin, None, Germany

Berlin, None, Germany

Oct
06
Queen Esther @ Goltzschtalgalerie Nicolaikirche

Auerbach, None, Germany

Auerbach, None, Germany

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If our (ME) dares to place a practically unknown cd on number 1 of the annual list, it must be a very special cd. That’s what happened with Talkin’ Fishbowl Blues and, as usual, (ME) was absolutely right. Because this cd is full of impressive songs and well suited to be played at full blast. That has every thing to do with the unmistakable Stones-sound that’s being used, but also with the amazing voice of Esther, who has not only proven herself as a singer, but has credentials in theater as well. What kind of music is this Black American playing, I can hear you asking and the answer is not so simple. Due to the Stones sound I (am pleased to) say rock and R & B. Because of the twang and themes I would consider americana to be correct. On her website you repeatedly find the phrase ‘black americana’ and I can agree with that, even for only the bits of triphop and gospel soul it contains. Esther is a fine composer (except for the very successfully done Stand by your man, she has written or co-written everything herself), but she particularly shines as a singer. She doesn’t venture on playing an instrument, but in her case it’s understandable: one who possesses such a set of vocal cords is destined to make that the main trademark. Having said this… the album contains twelve songs, and every one of them is very suitable for radio. The title song, Taster’s Choice, New York City, and The Way of the World are my personal favorites, though. I remain with a single question: Why can’t I find a reference to the great Joan Armatrading in any review? Because if you ask me, that’s what Queen Esther is: Joan’s heiress. You can already guess my advice: find out, fast! - Roots Town Music Free-zine



Queen Esther is, in the right sense of the word, a special case. Armed with a classically trained four octave reaching voice, this Atlanta, Georgia Black singer with a stop in Austin, Texas, leaves for New York where she expresses her singing and writing talent in almost any imaginable musical genre (from vaudeville to art noise) and collaboration. Fortunately, Talkin’ Fishbowl Blues is not as divergent, but does have a slice of music styles she grew up with: jazz, blues, gospel, country and rock. This self-proclaimed queen gives us a treat of twelve excellent numbers, creating a great blend of her music background. Ten compositions are her own, each distinguished by an uncompromising and contemporary approach, with beautiful melody cords and irresistible rhythms. The CD starts with the contemporary ‘Promise Me’ which was given a delightful trip hop basis, and ends with a blue-eyed soul version of Tammy Wynette’s conservative “Stand by your Man.’ There you have the outline of the musical range in which she operates. In other words, Queen Esther offers a musical mixture labeled ‘Black Americana’ on the CD. There is, in my opinion, no better way to describe this music which, by the way, is also great dance music. - Roots Cafe



If our (ME) dares to place a practically unknown cd on number 1 of the annual list, it must be a very special cd. That’s what happened with Talkin’ Fishbowl Blues and, as usual, (ME) was absolutely right. Because this cd is full of impressive songs and well suited to be played at full blast. That has every thing to do with the unmistakable Stones-sound that’s being used, but also with the amazing voice of Esther, who has not only proven herself as a singer, but has credentials in theater as well. What kind of music is this Black American playing, I can hear you asking and the answer is not so simple. Due to the Stones sound I (am pleased to) say rock and R & B. Because of the twang and themes I would consider americana to be correct. On her website you repeatedly find the phrase ‘black americana’ and I can agree with that, even for only the bits of triphop and gospel soul it contains. Esther is a fine composer (except for the very successfully done Stand by your man, she has written or co-written everything herself), but she particularly shines as a singer. She doesn’t venture on playing an instrument, but in her case it’s understandable: one who possesses such a set of vocal cords is destined to make that the main trademark. Having said this… the album contains twelve songs, and every one of them is very suitable for radio. The title song, Taster’s Choice, New York City, and The Way of the World are my personal favorites, though. I remain with a single question: Why can’t I find a reference to the great Joan Armatrading in any review? Because if you ask me, that’s what Queen Esther is: Joan’s heiress. You can already guess my advice: find out, fast! - Roots Town Music Free-zine


Intro:
It's been a long time since I've had a disc that totally blew me away. Especially with the number of discs we get here at EAR CANDY. (Because our review policy is to "review everything we get...but...tell it like it is", we get a lot!) My ears truly perked up when I heard the first track on Queen Esther's TALKIN' FISHBOWL BLUES. At first I thought it might be a fluke because I can't tell you how many CD's have a strong opening track, only to find out that the rest of the CD was lame. But then to my joy I found a whole CD of great songs!

Queen Esther's sound combines blues, rock, gospel and country - in a style that has been dubbed "Black Americana". I was impressed by the wide variety of styles within Queen Esther's songwriting (and vocal ability) - from gritty, Rolling Stones-style rock to soaring gospel-tinged tunes. But she doesn't sound "retro" in a Lenny Kravitz kind of way (Lenny always seems like he's trying too hard to sound authentic) - her music sounds fresh and exciting.

I recently interviewed Queen Esther and was surprised to find many parallels in our musical influences. While she is refreshingly candid and straight forward, her determination is evident. We talked about where she's been...and most importantly, where she's going!

E.C.: I really love your mix of Rolling Stones-type rock, with R&B, blues, gospel and even country. Your vocals and songwriting seems to strike quite a balance between the grittiness of rock and roll and smooth-as-silk gospel. How did your style come about?

Queen Esther: I’m a child of the 70’s. Back then, everything was on the radio all at once—and on TV as well, on shows like The Midnight Special (with Wolfman Jack) and Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert. I could see bands like Ambrosia and Pilot right next to Blue Oyster Cult and Jethro Tull. There was lots of blues-rock everywhere. I loved the Eagles and the Allman Brothers and Journey and Bad Company and Steely Dan and Cheap Trick with equal abandon. (I especially remember Hall & Oates “Sara Smile”, Johnny “Guitar“ Watson “A Real Mother For Ya”, the Allman Brothers “Whipping Post”, Cheap Trick “Live at the Budokan/I Want You To Want Me” and Todd Rundgren “Hello, It’s Me” from this moment in time. Mother’s Finest, The Dixie Dregs and the Atlanta Rhythm Section would come later.)

And then there were my uncles, who listened to everything from Mandrill to P-Funk to the Average White Band. There was always music and singing in church, which was sometimes quite rural and always very traditional—remember, I grew up with my great-grandparents and grandparents as well as my parents. In church, there was everything from traditional obscure country gospel songs to James Cleveland and Andre Crouch. There was a performing arts high school that I attended in Atlanta—lots of voice lessons and choral singing. I had a small role in our production of Bernstein’s MASS with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra when I was, like, 15 or so. I also have a brother that’s an accomplished bassist and composer. His name is Ramon Pooser and he’s out of Atlanta now. When we were kids, he listened to stuff like Yes and Stanley Clarke and Ron Carter and Weather Report and so on. (The Clarke album “School Days” stands out from around this time, as does Jaco Pastorius’s songs “Teen Town” and “John and Mary” and the Ron Carter album “Peg Leg”.) So I absorbed all of that, too.

I honestly loved it all. I was shy as a child and kind of a loner, so there was no one to tell me that what I was listening to wasn’t cool or not worthwhile or whatever. Everything went into “the matrix” as it were, and when it was time to make music, all of it informed the things that I created.

Another thing: I honestly can’t ever remember NOT singing. I was born with correct placement and a strong ear, and I grew up singing in church, so singing was effortless with me—which is probably why I took it for granted for as long as I did.

E.C.: There are so many artists that have to “find” their sound. Was it something that just came natural to you?

Queen Esther: My sound was already there, waiting for me--once I decided to accept myself. Finding my sound was me deciding to do what I wanted to do, not what anyone else thought was a better idea than what I had.

Basically, I came to a place creatively where I decided to be true to myself/my essence, the music that I loved and the songs that I heard in my head, no matter what. I think that every artist comes to this fork in the road eventually, whether you’re a muralist or a violinist. You have to decide if you’re going to do your thing or not. I always thought that there was no way that God would give me all of my talents, my dreams and my vision for what I want to do—and have me do nothing with any of it. That just didn’t make any sense to me.

For me, the farther away from the South I went, the more Southern my sound became—until I realized that I always had my Southern sound. It’s just that I didn’t re - Ear Candy Magazine


Intro:
It's been a long time since I've had a disc that totally blew me away. Especially with the number of discs we get here at EAR CANDY. (Because our review policy is to "review everything we get...but...tell it like it is", we get a lot!) My ears truly perked up when I heard the first track on Queen Esther's TALKIN' FISHBOWL BLUES. At first I thought it might be a fluke because I can't tell you how many CD's have a strong opening track, only to find out that the rest of the CD was lame. But then to my joy I found a whole CD of great songs!

Queen Esther's sound combines blues, rock, gospel and country - in a style that has been dubbed "Black Americana". I was impressed by the wide variety of styles within Queen Esther's songwriting (and vocal ability) - from gritty, Rolling Stones-style rock to soaring gospel-tinged tunes. But she doesn't sound "retro" in a Lenny Kravitz kind of way (Lenny always seems like he's trying too hard to sound authentic) - her music sounds fresh and exciting.

I recently interviewed Queen Esther and was surprised to find many parallels in our musical influences. While she is refreshingly candid and straight forward, her determination is evident. We talked about where she's been...and most importantly, where she's going!

E.C.: I really love your mix of Rolling Stones-type rock, with R&B, blues, gospel and even country. Your vocals and songwriting seems to strike quite a balance between the grittiness of rock and roll and smooth-as-silk gospel. How did your style come about?

Queen Esther: I’m a child of the 70’s. Back then, everything was on the radio all at once—and on TV as well, on shows like The Midnight Special (with Wolfman Jack) and Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert. I could see bands like Ambrosia and Pilot right next to Blue Oyster Cult and Jethro Tull. There was lots of blues-rock everywhere. I loved the Eagles and the Allman Brothers and Journey and Bad Company and Steely Dan and Cheap Trick with equal abandon. (I especially remember Hall & Oates “Sara Smile”, Johnny “Guitar“ Watson “A Real Mother For Ya”, the Allman Brothers “Whipping Post”, Cheap Trick “Live at the Budokan/I Want You To Want Me” and Todd Rundgren “Hello, It’s Me” from this moment in time. Mother’s Finest, The Dixie Dregs and the Atlanta Rhythm Section would come later.)

And then there were my uncles, who listened to everything from Mandrill to P-Funk to the Average White Band. There was always music and singing in church, which was sometimes quite rural and always very traditional—remember, I grew up with my great-grandparents and grandparents as well as my parents. In church, there was everything from traditional obscure country gospel songs to James Cleveland and Andre Crouch. There was a performing arts high school that I attended in Atlanta—lots of voice lessons and choral singing. I had a small role in our production of Bernstein’s MASS with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra when I was, like, 15 or so. I also have a brother that’s an accomplished bassist and composer. His name is Ramon Pooser and he’s out of Atlanta now. When we were kids, he listened to stuff like Yes and Stanley Clarke and Ron Carter and Weather Report and so on. (The Clarke album “School Days” stands out from around this time, as does Jaco Pastorius’s songs “Teen Town” and “John and Mary” and the Ron Carter album “Peg Leg”.) So I absorbed all of that, too.

I honestly loved it all. I was shy as a child and kind of a loner, so there was no one to tell me that what I was listening to wasn’t cool or not worthwhile or whatever. Everything went into “the matrix” as it were, and when it was time to make music, all of it informed the things that I created.

Another thing: I honestly can’t ever remember NOT singing. I was born with correct placement and a strong ear, and I grew up singing in church, so singing was effortless with me—which is probably why I took it for granted for as long as I did.

E.C.: There are so many artists that have to “find” their sound. Was it something that just came natural to you?

Queen Esther: My sound was already there, waiting for me--once I decided to accept myself. Finding my sound was me deciding to do what I wanted to do, not what anyone else thought was a better idea than what I had.

Basically, I came to a place creatively where I decided to be true to myself/my essence, the music that I loved and the songs that I heard in my head, no matter what. I think that every artist comes to this fork in the road eventually, whether you’re a muralist or a violinist. You have to decide if you’re going to do your thing or not. I always thought that there was no way that God would give me all of my talents, my dreams and my vision for what I want to do—and have me do nothing with any of it. That just didn’t make any sense to me.

For me, the farther away from the South I went, the more Southern my sound became—until I realized that I always had my Southern sound. It’s just that I didn’t re - Ear Candy Magazine


(Note: this is an exerpt. For the full article -- http://www.derecensent.nl/recensies/chicksinger24.htm)

2004 was het jaar van het Norah Jones-effect. Door het succes van Jones de afgelopen jaren is elke platenmaatschappij naarstig op zoek gegaan naar hun eigen (jonge) zangeres die jazz of swing kan zingen. Ouderwets klinken, al dan niet met behulp van covers, is sowieso in dit jaar. Niet voor niets is de ontdekking van het jaar een blanke reïncarnatie van Aretha Franklin.

Chicksingers 2004, in juiste volgorde:
De links in onderstaande lijst verwijzen naar eerdere afleveringen van Chicksinger over de betreffende cd's
01. Angela McCluskey - The things we do
02. Joss Stone – The soul sessions
Joss Stone / Mind body & soul
03. Ani di Franco – Educated guess
04. Ane Brun – Spending time with Morgan
05. Marike Jager - Focus
06. The Dresden Dolls - The Dresden Dolls
07. Dayna Kurtz – Beautiful yesterday
08. Bettie Serveert - Attagirl
09. Nellie McKay - Get away from me
10. Anouk - Hotel New York
11. Queen Esther - Talkin' fishbowl blues
12. Alanis Morissette – So-called chaos
13. Amy Winehouse – Frank
14. Sarah Bettens – Go
15. Sykosonics - Ultralite
16. Jolie Holland – Escondida
17. Tift Merritt - Tambourine
18. Norah Jones – Feels like home
19. The Riplets – Love special delivery boy
20. Lilian Hak - Silence feels safe
21. P.J. Harvey – Uh huh her
22. Lorna Hunt – Sentimental bedlam
23. Angie Stone - Stone love
24. Jill Scott - Beautifully human: words and sounds vol. 2
25. Marianne Faithfull - Before the poison
26. Feist - Let it die
27. A girl called Eddy - A girl called Eddy
28. Powderblue – Powderblue
29. Ricky Koole – Who’s Suzy? 30. Björk - Medúlla
31. Bebel Gilberto - Bebel
32. Avril Lavigne - Under my skin
33. Tété Alhinho – Voz
34. Ruthie Foster – Runaway soul
35. Zap Mama - Ancestry in progress
36. Ilene Barnes - Time
37. Juliet's Ghost - Man down
38. Fefe Dobson - Fefe Dobson
39. Trijntje Oosterhuis – Strange fruit
40. Katie Melua – Call off the search - Recensie


Krijg ik toch een mailtje van hare majesteit. Of ik in Chicksinger haar nieuwste cd wil bespreken. Natuurlijk, excellentie. Stuur maar op. Enkele dagen later valt Talkin' fishbowl blues in mijn bus. Op de voorkant de koningin en profil: rastaplukken staan als zandstenen beeldjes op haar hoofd, een zilveren bloem schittert in haar oor, haar rode lippen zijn nog gesloten, maar haar ene zichtbare oog staat open voor wat komen gaat.

Ik had niet eerder gehoord van Queen Esther. Dat ze backing vocals verzorgde voor bluesman James 'Blood' Ulmer en voor Norah Jones was me ontgaan. En in de comedy- en singersongwritersclubs van New York kom ik niet. Daar bouwde ze een naam op als mc, maar vooral ook als zangeres. Dit laatste resulteerde in haar debuutplaat voor het independent-label El Recordings.

Met kwaliteitseisen is het raar gesteld. Ik zal niet zeggen wekelijks van eisenpakket te wisselen, maar neem de originaliteitseis. Toch het hoogste goed in de kunst; de vernieuwende artiest. Anouk moet bijvoorbeeld niet te veel oubollige rock laten horen. Maar tegelijkertijd kan Joss Stone mij niet retro genoeg klinken. Het grote verschil is natuurlijk waaraan beide artiesten refereren. De '80's rock waaraan Anouk gelukkig nog maar zelden refereert, is mij een gruwel. Terwijl de pure soul uit begin jaren '70 die bij Joss weerklinkt mij in grote mate bevalt. Vanwaar dit lesje 'originaliteit'? Simpelweg om aan te geven dat Queen Esther geen vernieuwende muziek maakt, maar wel oorspronkelijke songs schrijft die mij bevallen.

De eerste referentie die zich opdringt, is die aan Joan Armatrading. Deze vergeten singer-songwriter uit de jaren '70 wist rock, blues en soul te combineren. Queen Esther doet hetzelfde, maar neigt het meeste naar blues-rock. Soms gaat die neiging zelfs zo ver dat de zompige voortstuwende sound van Little Feat weerklinkt. Dat gebeurt direct al in de opener Promise me, maar ook in de song Leave me alone.
So real is de meest prototypische bluessong van de plaat. Het standaard gitaargejengel roept mindere referenties op naar Gary Moore of in het gunstigste geval Bonnie Riatt. Juist als Queen Esther de grens van de blues, soul, rock en pop opzoekt weet ze geweldig te klinken. New York City doet dankzij de knauwende funky tweede stem sterk aan Chaka Khan en Rufus denken. Ze moet met deze song (en ook met Shine en Love) uitkijken dat Miss Aardappelstrot Anastacia haar niet gaat coveren, zodat er van de oorspronkelijke Esther-liedjes enkel kauwgumballenpop overblijft. Mocht het met dit debuutalbum niet lukken, is het financieel natuurlijk altijd een optie.

Queen Esther heeft tekstueel gezien niet echt de blues. Oké, het gaat heus niet allemaal goed, getuige Leave me alone ('I need a man, like a fish needs a bicycle' [?]) of het a capella gezongen Help me ('to walk out that door'). Maar ze is, ondanks het verleden, ook wel hoopvol, zoals ze in Get it right this time zingt. Naast de niets-aan-de-hand-pop en de beetje blues, valt de anti-feministische country-uitsmijter Stand by your man geheel buiten de boot. Muzikaal gezien blijft ze te dicht bij de country om de klassieker naar haar hand te zetten. Hierdoor kan ik de song ook niet in een ander daglicht plaatsen dan waar die al in stond. En dat is jammer, zeker als ik weer aan Joan Armatrading denk, die toch iets meer te vertellen had.


Ricco van Nierop Illustratie: Gerard Monster - Recensie


A commonly used term in music now is Black Americana. I am hearing it more often now and it is because the music fits the culture that drives it. Regardless of placing music into a particular genre or neat little corner somewhere at your local record store, this is just great music, plain and simple; it does not require a specific label to understand it.


Talkin’ Fishbowl Blues is the title of the album, yet another interesting use of words if I do say so myself. The key reference is the blues. Everything that this diverse artist delivers is born in the foundation of the blues. Rock, gospel, rhythm and blues, country (this is were the hillbilly comes in right?), all part of the blues pathways, find there way into the song and music of this intriguing recording. The album gets a real kick in the pants when it opens with “Promise Me.” Tracks like the soulful “So Real” reach down and grab your innards. The guitar playing is red-hot on this track, well for that matter, on the entire album. All 12 tracks had something different to offer me and I enjoyed every single one.


Esther has a bevy of talented musicians contributing to her album and its all quality with oodles of diversity to fit the mold and mood of each track. Every track stands alone, a tower of singularity and purpose. There is no repetition and any time for displacement of time or rhythm in a song on this album, it is a solid representation of the artist and her substance. What a great example of an empowered woman living the dream and playing her music with passion and heart. I can understand why the word Queen comes first in her name, she is well on her way to becoming musical royalty. Legends like B.B. King would dig this girl and her vibe. She is modern, yet not flashy while holding true to herself with firmness and a forthright approach and style.


If you happen to be looking for something fresh and exciting, something most of have not heard in a while, Queen Esther is your ticket to paradise.



*Evolution Scale-9.5/10 - Blues Matters! Magazine


Maybe you've heard Queen Esther singing the blues with James Blood Ulmer or Elliott Sharp. Maybe you saw her singing jazz in the theater production of Harlem Song. Either way, her proper debut album Talkin' Fishbowl Blues will take you by surprise. This record rocks! In her bio, she described her sound as "If Keith fired Mick and decided to let Tina Turner front the band with Gram Parsons riding shotgun," and that's actually right on the mark. There's a decidedly Stonesy swagger to many of these tunes with just a touch of twang, and Queen Esther shows herself to be just as versatile a vocalist as Tina, covering not only the lead vocals but nearly all the background vocals as well. She's got a great voice (four octave range), and maybe it's her theater background, but all her vocals (even the backing vox) are filled with passion and brimming with personality. She even adopts something close to Mick's country honk for the title cut. Queen Esther writes about what she knows: mostly being a young woman transplanted to New York City and relationships, but she's a keen observer and turns some great phrases throughout. The band is rock & roll basics: guitars, bass and drums -- and more guitars, and they play with just the right mixture of being together but playing loose. Jack Sprat's production is crisp but not glossy, and there's a freshness to the performances that implies they didn't play these songs to death hoping for the "perfect" take. There are guitars all over the place, including some tasty lap steel on "Taster's Choice," nice wet sounding tremolo guitar on "Get It Right This Time" and patented Keith Richards' riffs on "Talkin' Fishbowl Blues." "New York City" is built on an irresistibly funky groove, with sassy backup vocals and twangy slide guitars all over the top while Queen Esther just belts it out. But just when you think you might have Queen Esther's "Black Americana" sound figured out, she offers up the a cappella, gospel-flavored "Help Me," where she sings at least four parts, harmonizing with herself. Then she turns around and gives a straight reading of "Stand By Your Man"(!), even supplying her own cornball country choir for the backing vocals to close out the album. You'll have to set your preconceptions aside for this one. Queen Esther is active in the theater and performance art worlds, sings the blues, sings jazz with the JC Hopkins Biggish Band, and now has offered up a great rock & roll album. Is there anything this woman can't do? (4 out of 5 stars) - allmusic.com


Maybe you've heard Queen Esther singing the blues with James Blood Ulmer or Elliott Sharp. Maybe you saw her singing jazz in the theater production of Harlem Song. Either way, her proper debut album Talkin' Fishbowl Blues will take you by surprise. This record rocks! In her bio, she described her sound as "If Keith fired Mick and decided to let Tina Turner front the band with Gram Parsons riding shotgun," and that's actually right on the mark. There's a decidedly Stonesy swagger to many of these tunes with just a touch of twang, and Queen Esther shows herself to be just as versatile a vocalist as Tina, covering not only the lead vocals but nearly all the background vocals as well. She's got a great voice (four octave range), and maybe it's her theater background, but all her vocals (even the backing vox) are filled with passion and brimming with personality. She even adopts something close to Mick's country honk for the title cut. Queen Esther writes about what she knows: mostly being a young woman transplanted to New York City and relationships, but she's a keen observer and turns some great phrases throughout. The band is rock & roll basics: guitars, bass and drums -- and more guitars, and they play with just the right mixture of being together but playing loose. Jack Sprat's production is crisp but not glossy, and there's a freshness to the performances that implies they didn't play these songs to death hoping for the "perfect" take. There are guitars all over the place, including some tasty lap steel on "Taster's Choice," nice wet sounding tremolo guitar on "Get It Right This Time" and patented Keith Richards' riffs on "Talkin' Fishbowl Blues." "New York City" is built on an irresistibly funky groove, with sassy backup vocals and twangy slide guitars all over the top while Queen Esther just belts it out. But just when you think you might have Queen Esther's "Black Americana" sound figured out, she offers up the a cappella, gospel-flavored "Help Me," where she sings at least four parts, harmonizing with herself. Then she turns around and gives a straight reading of "Stand By Your Man"(!), even supplying her own cornball country choir for the backing vocals to close out the album. You'll have to set your preconceptions aside for this one. Queen Esther is active in the theater and performance art worlds, sings the blues, sings jazz with the JC Hopkins Biggish Band, and now has offered up a great rock & roll album. Is there anything this woman can't do? (4 out of 5 stars) - allmusic.com


The biblical Queen Esther was married to King Ahasuerus (aka Xerxes, 486-465 B.C.), the ruler of the Persian Empire, and saved her fellow-Jews from genocide at the hands of her husband who was ignorant of her origin and rather ignorant in general, it seems. It's one of those rather complicated and intriguing stories of love and betrayal that can make the Bible such a fascinating read at times. I don't know whether Queen Esther, the Southern-born, New York-based and classically trained African-American singer-songwriter, based her artist name on the heroine of this story, but ­ in a very modest way ­ she is a savior too. What she saves with her "Black Americana" as she refers to her music, is the belief that music does not belong into tiny little boxes labeled "race" or "hillbilly" or the modern equivalents of those terms.

"We are all native speakers. Sing where you are, even as it goes. Sing all the things that this life denied you. No one owns even one note," says the narrator of Richard Power's The Time of our Singing, this fascinating and heart-breaking book about people caught up in music and torn between white and black identities. With her debut solo album Talkin' Fishbowl Blues, Queen Esther proves that she is a native speaker of American music. Whether it is gospel or country or blues or rock, she knows all of those black, white and blue notes well enough to meld them into her own special dialect, and it sounds beautiful no matter where your musical cradle stood.

Queen Esther is not a newcomer. She has performed and recorded with jazz guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer and she can be heard on Blues & Grass: The 52nd Street Blues Project, a fascinating travel through (black) folk music featuring Charles Burnham, Mark Petersen and Aubrey Dale. In New York City, she can be heard regularly with JC Hopkins' 13-piece-band Champagne Fountain of Joy. Having paid her musical dues in many respects, Queen Esther set up her own record label EL Recordings, wrote two handfuls of songs, found herself a bunch of experienced musicians and dragged them into the studio. The result is awesome.

Queen Esther has the sort of voice that instantly gets under your skin, a bit like Macy Gray's, only a lot warmer. Actually, the one singer Queen Esther reminds me of most is the sadly neglected white R&B Singer Evie Sands (http://www.rockzilla.net/ebertowski16.html). The collection of musicians that escort this musical royalty through the songs is as diverse as the musical styles Queens Esther draws from. There's bassist Sebastian Steinberg from Soul Coughing, guitarist Kelvyn Bell from Defunkt, Marvin Sewell who plays with Cassandra Wilson and, much to my personal delight, there's also Boo Reiners, the Demolition String Band's modest but mighty guitar hero.

Talkin' Fishbowl Blues is the sort of album that keeps you at the edge of your chair from the first notes of the self-written "Promise Me" to the last chords of the staggering country soul version of "Stand by Your Man." The rather heavy R&B opener is loud and clear enough to prick up your ears, but if you thought you could settle into a rather dark and heavy groove, the cheerful candy pop quality of "Shine" will drag you out of your grim mood immediately.

Queen Esther continues to shine on the Stones-meet-Macy Gray title song, written by guitarist David Pattillo. Boo Reiners and Pattillo are rocking away on guitar like Keith Richards and Brian Jones, and the lyrics are hard-hitting and funny enough to catch and keep your attention. After that, the country-inclined listener will be charmed by "Taster's Choice," a soulful country ballad with great lap steel guitar by Josh Roy Brown. Now, this is the sort of song I would just love to hear on the radio every day, every hour if possible.

With the mesmerizing "Love" Queen Esther takes the R&B road again and lets Mssrs Bell and Reyners battle it out on guitars. Love, love, love, ahhhhhhh Boo Reiners co-wrote "So Real," with her Majesty, a blues/gospel track that leaves a wide enough battle field for Reiners and producer Jack Sprat to show off their remarkable guitar skills. The very cool and wonderfully assertive "Leave Me Alone," a song that rocks your socks off in the best Creedence Clearwater Revival spirit, follows the funky "New York City," co-written by Queen Esther with producer Jack Sprat and guitarist Marvin Sewell.

"Get It Right This Time," co-written with Jack Sprat, is the jazziest track on the album. Sprat's adventurous guitar chords are reminiscent of James "Blood" Ulmer's. Ron Sunshine blows everything to a peaceful ending on harmonica. From here it's quite a musical step to "The Way of the World, "co-written with Sprat and bassist Tom Rickell. This is one of those mellow R&B ballads with great harmonies (the Queen multiplied) and great guitar work by Jack Sprat and Craig Dreyer on flute. This should be a hit!

The two most extraordinary songs are saved for the end. "Help Me," an acapella gospel-ba - Rockzilla.com


The biblical Queen Esther was married to King Ahasuerus (aka Xerxes, 486-465 B.C.), the ruler of the Persian Empire, and saved her fellow-Jews from genocide at the hands of her husband who was ignorant of her origin and rather ignorant in general, it seems. It's one of those rather complicated and intriguing stories of love and betrayal that can make the Bible such a fascinating read at times. I don't know whether Queen Esther, the Southern-born, New York-based and classically trained African-American singer-songwriter, based her artist name on the heroine of this story, but ­ in a very modest way ­ she is a savior too. What she saves with her "Black Americana" as she refers to her music, is the belief that music does not belong into tiny little boxes labeled "race" or "hillbilly" or the modern equivalents of those terms.

"We are all native speakers. Sing where you are, even as it goes. Sing all the things that this life denied you. No one owns even one note," says the narrator of Richard Power's The Time of our Singing, this fascinating and heart-breaking book about people caught up in music and torn between white and black identities. With her debut solo album Talkin' Fishbowl Blues, Queen Esther proves that she is a native speaker of American music. Whether it is gospel or country or blues or rock, she knows all of those black, white and blue notes well enough to meld them into her own special dialect, and it sounds beautiful no matter where your musical cradle stood.

Queen Esther is not a newcomer. She has performed and recorded with jazz guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer and she can be heard on Blues & Grass: The 52nd Street Blues Project, a fascinating travel through (black) folk music featuring Charles Burnham, Mark Petersen and Aubrey Dale. In New York City, she can be heard regularly with JC Hopkins' 13-piece-band Champagne Fountain of Joy. Having paid her musical dues in many respects, Queen Esther set up her own record label EL Recordings, wrote two handfuls of songs, found herself a bunch of experienced musicians and dragged them into the studio. The result is awesome.

Queen Esther has the sort of voice that instantly gets under your skin, a bit like Macy Gray's, only a lot warmer. Actually, the one singer Queen Esther reminds me of most is the sadly neglected white R&B Singer Evie Sands (http://www.rockzilla.net/ebertowski16.html). The collection of musicians that escort this musical royalty through the songs is as diverse as the musical styles Queens Esther draws from. There's bassist Sebastian Steinberg from Soul Coughing, guitarist Kelvyn Bell from Defunkt, Marvin Sewell who plays with Cassandra Wilson and, much to my personal delight, there's also Boo Reiners, the Demolition String Band's modest but mighty guitar hero.

Talkin' Fishbowl Blues is the sort of album that keeps you at the edge of your chair from the first notes of the self-written "Promise Me" to the last chords of the staggering country soul version of "Stand by Your Man." The rather heavy R&B opener is loud and clear enough to prick up your ears, but if you thought you could settle into a rather dark and heavy groove, the cheerful candy pop quality of "Shine" will drag you out of your grim mood immediately.

Queen Esther continues to shine on the Stones-meet-Macy Gray title song, written by guitarist David Pattillo. Boo Reiners and Pattillo are rocking away on guitar like Keith Richards and Brian Jones, and the lyrics are hard-hitting and funny enough to catch and keep your attention. After that, the country-inclined listener will be charmed by "Taster's Choice," a soulful country ballad with great lap steel guitar by Josh Roy Brown. Now, this is the sort of song I would just love to hear on the radio every day, every hour if possible.

With the mesmerizing "Love" Queen Esther takes the R&B road again and lets Mssrs Bell and Reyners battle it out on guitars. Love, love, love, ahhhhhhh Boo Reiners co-wrote "So Real," with her Majesty, a blues/gospel track that leaves a wide enough battle field for Reiners and producer Jack Sprat to show off their remarkable guitar skills. The very cool and wonderfully assertive "Leave Me Alone," a song that rocks your socks off in the best Creedence Clearwater Revival spirit, follows the funky "New York City," co-written by Queen Esther with producer Jack Sprat and guitarist Marvin Sewell.

"Get It Right This Time," co-written with Jack Sprat, is the jazziest track on the album. Sprat's adventurous guitar chords are reminiscent of James "Blood" Ulmer's. Ron Sunshine blows everything to a peaceful ending on harmonica. From here it's quite a musical step to "The Way of the World, "co-written with Sprat and bassist Tom Rickell. This is one of those mellow R&B ballads with great harmonies (the Queen multiplied) and great guitar work by Jack Sprat and Craig Dreyer on flute. This should be a hit!

The two most extraordinary songs are saved for the end. "Help Me," an acapella gospel-ba - Rockzilla.com


Unlike most modern blues singers, Queen Esther is not afraid to learn from many genres and then use their essential strengths to add telling details to her own stories. She quietly pleads with lyrics that use both the bluntness and crooked wit of the blues tradition to draw an emotionally detailed portrait of the romantic dramas awaiting a young, smart New York woman who moves with ease through the avant and blues worlds. Much of her emotional landscape is given extra dimensions by a band whose slightly off kilter yet precisely played licks and beats prove they know musical power can be created without showboating. In a genre increasingly dominated by songwriters afraid to tell their stories Queen Esther and group demonstrate truth talking and entertainment were both tools for the true blues artist. - C-Ville Weekly


Unlike most modern blues singers, Queen Esther is not afraid to learn from many genres and then use their essential strengths to add telling details to her own stories. She quietly pleads with lyrics that use both the bluntness and crooked wit of the blues tradition to draw an emotionally detailed portrait of the romantic dramas awaiting a young, smart New York woman who moves with ease through the avant and blues worlds. Much of her emotional landscape is given extra dimensions by a band whose slightly off kilter yet precisely played licks and beats prove they know musical power can be created without showboating. In a genre increasingly dominated by songwriters afraid to tell their stories Queen Esther and group demonstrate truth talking and entertainment were both tools for the true blues artist. - C-Ville Weekly


Discography

What Is Love? (EL Recordings), self-released 2010

Talkin' Fishbowl Blues (EL Recordings), self-released 2004

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"The Harlem Experiment"/Aaron Levinson, producer(Ropeadope) 2007

JC Hopkins' Biggish Band featuring Queen Esther "Underneath A Brooklyn Moon" (Tigerlily) 2005

"Blues & Grass: The 52nd St. Blues Project"/James "Blood" Ulmer, producer (Chesky) 2004

James "Blood" Ulmer, "No Escape From The Blues"/Vernon Reid, producer (Hyena) 2003

George C. Wolfe's Harlem Song, Original Cast Recording (Columbia/Legacy) 2002

Hoosegow, Mighty (Homestead) 1996

Photos

Bio

2009 Honorable Mention (Lyrics), International Songwriting Competition

2008 Grand Prize Winner, Jazzmobile Jazz Vocal Competition

Queen Esther sits in a booth at her favorite West Harlem cafe in a pencil skirt and a baby tee, working on an empanada and a list of things to do – cell phone ringing, legs dangling, her favorite guitar within easy reach. It's been a busy day for Her Royal Highness: in the midst of a flurry of auditions and callbacks, she crash-landed into a recording session in midtown, had an online interview with an Americana radio station deep in the heart of Europe, and ended the day with a rehearsal for an upcoming gig. Somewhere in there, she found out that she’s been cast in her third national commercial. On her way home, she impulsively popped in unannounced for an impromptu guitar lesson from none other than her mentor, jazz guitar icon James "Blood" Ulmer.

According to Queen Esther, it's all in a day's work.

"Blood always said that I was a harmelodic person," Queen Esther muses. "What he wanted me to understand is that it would be difficult for people to 'get' how I could do so many things simultaneously." She pauses for a moment, smiles and leans forward slightly. "Actually," she confides, "I don't get it, either. I'm just doing what comes naturally.”

Indeed. Queen Esther grew up as the middle child and the only daughter in the semi-rural environs of the Deep South with six brothers, a four-octave range and an IQ that set her firmly in the gifted program for English and creative writing as a five year old. While attending a prestigious performing arts high school in Atlanta GA, she thrived in the Governor's Honors Program in drama and was cast in many citywide productions, such as Bernstein's MASS with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Thanks to ARTS Recognition and Talent Search (sponsored by the National Foundation for the Arts), she competed for and won several scholarships internationally in theater. As luck would have it, she chose the University of Texas and exploded on the local music scene in Austin as a member of Ro-Tel and the Hot Tomatoes, a regional favorite specializing in girl group music that began as a gag in the infamous local comedy troupe Esther's Follies.

"I'm telling you, you can't make this stuff up," Queen Esther remarked. "We used to do private parties for H. Ross Perot and the Bass brothers. Lots of Texas socialites, like Wendy Reeves. Now, she was a hoot. We'd play a lot of honky-tonks, too. We even opened for Chuck Berry! And we always had a regular set every week on 6th Street, no matter what."

It was “Big Al” Gilhausen, the guitarist in Ro-Tel, who introduced her to the legendary guitarist Hubert Sumlin. Because of his immediate influence, she lost herself in the blues and found her way back to her country gospel roots. With a childhood of 70s freeform radio on the airwaves, augmented by a steady diet of Hee-Haw, The Lawrence Welk Show and Soul Train – and the overwhelming presence of a rural sanctified black church, filled with sacred steel – the Black Americana sound was intact and in place, waiting patiently to be heard.

In time, Queen Esther relocated to New York City and flourished in the alt-music/alt-theater scene. Her work as a vocalist, lyricist, songwriter and actor/solo performer and playwright led to creative collaborations in neo-vaudeville, alternative theater, various alt-rock configurations, (neo) swing bands, trip hop DJs, spoken word performances, jazz combos, jam bands, various blues configurations, original Off Broadway plays and musicals, experimental music/art noise and performance art. Somewhere in this explosion of creativity and ideas, she finished a BA in Screenwriting from The New School and pushed toward developing her ideas, irregardless of genre.

"I never felt compelled to choose any one particular thing, like 'just sing' or 'just act,'" Queen Esther says. "That's not really the way creativity works. Or talent. Besides," she adds with a grin, "I was having a lot of fun!”

By the time she joined forces with guitarist Elliot Sharp as the acoustic alt-blues duo Hoosegow to create the much lauded CD Mighty (Homestead/1996), the Queen had managed to beat out more than 6,000 hopefuls from over five major US cities to land a plumb role in the original cast of the first national tour of the Broadway musical RENT.

"I got into that show on a non-union cattle call with no representation whatsoever," Queen Esther remembers, shaking her head in disbelief. "And after I walked in with my headshot and resume and sang 16 bars like everybody else, I had 5 – count ‘em! Five! – callbacks."

Her one person show Queen Esther: Unemployed Superstar was fleshed out while she was in RENT and further developed when she returned to the city, culminating

Band Members