Thursday, June 11, 2009

What Haven't You Done, Naomi?

Although normally associated with soul and funk, Brooklyn based Daptone Records dipped into the origins of their favorite music with the release of Como Now last year (read about it here if you missed it then). They've done it again with the release of What Have You Done, My Brother?, which while the debut full length release from Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens, is far from their first foray into making music.

Naomi Shelton first started singing in her church's choir at age six, and has been singing a mix of gospel, soul, and R&B ever since. In her early twenties (in 1963), Naomi moved to New York City, where she met Cliff Driver, the phenomenal organ player you'll hear on this album. The two worked together for several months, then went their own ways, only to come back together again in 1999, when the two formed Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens. The band took to the road, playing in club settings, and then cut a 45 on Desco Records (the forerunner of Daptone Records) as Naomi Davis and the Knights of Forty First Street, and when Gabriel Roth went on to form Daptone, he asked Naomi to contribute some vocals for Sugarman Three's first record for the new label on their track Promised Land (under the name Naomi Davis). It wasn't until several years later, in 2005, that the Gospel Queens decided to put together an album of their own, and now, four years later, it's finally here!

The album is well worth the wait, too. It clearly shows off Naomi's 60+ years of singing, and it strongly pulls from the early days of soul, when it was still taking birth as it shifted away from its gospel roots. Think Sam Cooke (who by the way she covers on the album's last track, A Change Is Gonna Come), both with his work with the Soul Stirrers and his initial forays into secular music, or Ray Charles and his exploration of soul versions of gospel tunes. In other words, this is the real deal. There's nothing neo- about this album. It's 100% genuine soul shaking gospel at its finest.

and an older one:

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