Reviews

Hoosegow: Mighty

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INK New Music Magazine

“The collective of Hoosegow is actually Elliott Sharp, noted NYC avant mover and shaker, and Queen Esther, whose name is not familiar to me but whose voice speaks volumes. Hoosegow revisits traditional blues with a very deft touch, defying the expected cliches here and there. Sharps acoustic accomplishments are outstanding, quickly shifting gears between bluesy rumbles to jazzy spikes and fleeting dissonant meanderings. On top of this richly textured bed floats Queen Esthers outstanding voice, which ranges from the deep to the soaring with beautiful harmonic accuracy and great feeling. Mighty is several things to several groups, often across the borders. Truly unique.”

US Rocker

“Im really surprised no one thought of this before: soulful female blues vocals over spare, avant-garde acoustic guitar. At the risk of overstating the obvious, Elliott Sharp has been, in the past, quite overbearingbut thats what hes, uh, paid to do! In Hoosegow, however, Sharp keeps the guitaring under tight controlthis is Queen Esthers show. Her voice swoops in and out, curing around the well-considered and emotionally wrenching lyrics. Purists will probably be unconvinced, but Mighty affects me more than any other contemporary blues Ive heard. Though this recording may be a little out of US Rockers scope, anyone with half a brain would be foolish not to pick it up: Mighty is a classic.”

CMJ Roots n Blues

“Hooking up with vocalist Queen Esther, (Hoosegow) gives us actual new fresh interpretations of the bluesat times, its really riveting stuff.”

The Onion

“Hoosegow, a collaboration between experimental guitarist Elliott Sharp and avant-diva Queen Esther, makes blues music thats simultaneously reverent, accessible and thoroughly original. With no percussion outside of Sharps shimmering, full-bodied electro-acoustic blues guitar, Queen Esther is given full room to whisper, seethe and really belt it out and she emerges as an assertive and versatile blues voice on nearly every song. Dont let Hoosegows avant-garde resume fool you into thinking this is some sort of impenetrably experimental album: Mighty is a refreshing, unpredictable and appropriately titled blues breakthrough.”

Guitar Player

“Elliot Sharp continues to astound us with his depth and daring. Recording with bluesy gospel vocalist Queen Esther, E# steers more towards the far-above-average blues of his Terraplane LP than the conceptualized avant-skronk hes best known for.”

CMJ New Music

“Elliot Sharp has never been without elaborate rationalizations for his musical choices. He bases compositions on mathematical sequences; he tunes instruments to frequencies that are multiples of each other. Balancing all this arithmetically determined order is “a fractal geometry of turbulence, chaos and disorder.” Not surprisingly, behind the intellectualization, he feels a secret urge to be Leadbellyjust Elliott, his 501s and a bottleneck slide. But here he does much more than prove that he gets the blues. He observes rhythms so carefully that he is free to make unusual choices about notes. Queen Esther, a performance artist from Atlanta, provides straightforward vocals on 12 original songs and a Willie Dixon number. Her strengths are energetic and unusual phrasing and a very pretty tone on the high notes. Her lyrics convey poetic Weltschmerz, though you get the feeling youve heard them somewhere before: she even uses the phrases “running on empty” and “wasted on the way.” But we all occasionally need to sing “No one knows how I feel/no one cares for me.” Spiced with the blues frankness and abandon, self-pitys triteness disappears.”

Option

“Hoosegow represents the odd musical coupling of New York guitar experimentalist Elliot Sharp and singer/performance artist Queen Esther. Normally known for his dissonant, highly percussive, distinctly unmelodic compositions, Sharp first ventured into the world of blues recording with 1995s Terraplane, a loud, electric, all-instrumental tribute to guitar heroes like Otis Rush and Elmore James. This time around, the instrumental settings are solo acoustic guitar, the tunes are original (with the notable exception of a wonderfully restrained treatment of Willie Dixons “Im Ready”) and Queen Esther adds lyrics and her soft, sultry, hauntingly precise vocals to the mix. I suppose you could complain at length about the results. “Its too cold, too restrained, too reverent to the tradition (even with the dearth of covers), too meticulously achieved to really sound like the blues.” Forget it. Blues or not, this is a wonderful album, full of elegance, maturity and light, dancing notes on every tune. My only disappointment is that they didnt include the great Hubert Sumlin (who used to play guitar with Howlin Wolf and recently joined Esther and Sharp for a set at the Knitting Factory) on at least one of the cuts.”

Time Out New York

“Talent is the operative word here. Sharps blues chops are tastefully orthodox, especially in his acoustic slide work, although hes a little restrained in the soloing department. That restraint, however, allows the Queen to take center stage with verses that go well beyond the standard blues fare of love bruised or lost. With a drop dead stare, Queen Esther navigates the songs with an attitude that reveals an Eartha Kitt influence and pipes nurtured on jazz and gospel recitation. It adds up to sets with minimal flash and plenty of electricity.”

Magnet

“Though guitarrorist Elliott Sharp is half of Hoosegow, dont plunk Mighty in your player expecting the crazed guitar fuckery thats made him the darling of NYCs downtown noise set. Mighty marks the follow-up to Sharps 1994 Terraplane, which featured an all-instrumental blues trio, and is similarly bluesified, tapping the spirit of James “Blood” Ulmer, Hubert Sumlin and Willie Dixon. The difference is that this one wraps a female vocalistQueen Esther, with a voice as silky and sweet as a Georgia peacharound Sharps guitars, and the combination proves lethal. Twelve original tracks and a reprise of Dixons “Im Ready” glisten with pristine musical simplicity, many of which could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their inspirations. “Is It Any Wonder?” features Sharps delicate touches; “Dead or Alive” pings and pops with overtones and “Trouble” calls up the low electric boogie of Neil Youngs recent Dead Man soundtrack. Esthers voice is the ideal accompaniment to each cut, evoking everyone from Ella to Eartha, occasionally teasing and elliptical (“Any Wonder?”) and often bold and brassy (“Intuition,” “You Never Can Tell”). Though Sharp has long squirmed from within the guitars traditional parameters, Mighty finds him good-naturedly thumbing his nose at anyone who thinks he might have forgottenor as an East Coast-educated white dude, never learned how to playthe roots. Heres the blues record of the summer.”

 

No Escape From The Blues

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All Music Guide

“What a glorious mess this album is. No Escape From the Blues assembles the same team that issued the brilliant and soulful Memphis Blood for a second chapter, assembling in the legendary Electric Lady Studios in New York. In making their second stop on the legendary studio tour — Memphis Blood was recorded at Sun — Ulmer and company move through a program of blues standards and originals that come off as mysterious and oddly organic considering the numerous textures and sounds in the home of Hendrixian adventure. The band includes Vernon Reid (who act as co-lead guitarist and producer), Odyssey violinist Charles Burnham, pianist and keyboard whiz Leon Gruenbaum, harmonica player David Barnes, and the rhythm section of Mark Peterson and Aubrey Dayle, as well as guests like Olu Dara, vocalist Queen Esther, tap dancer Maya Smullyan Jenkins, and John Kruth. Opening with a laid-back country rag blues tune like Mary Lee Reed’s “Goin’ to New York” with Reid on banjo already makes the listener look twice, but to follow it with Eddy H. Owens’ Chicago-style piano stride blues “The Hustle Is On” done in T-Bone Walker fashion is even more bizarre — especially with Reid’s screaming electric guitar solo in the break — is a freak out. Surprises like this keep the entire album experience off-kilter for the listener. Arrangements are unique and mix and match from the many blues subgenres, from juke joint to jump. Burnham’s wah-wah violin on “Who’s Been Talkin'” keeps the deep-talking blues from sounding maudlin or comical. The read of Johnny Copeland’s “Ghetto Child,” with Ulmer’s guitar and Gruenbaum’s spooky keyboards, echoes the Animals version of “House of the Rising Sun,” and Burnham makes the ghost factor rise by ten. The nearly acoustic Delta blues take of “Are You Glad to Be in America” is one of the more startling versions of the song Ulmer has recorded. The most rollicking track on the set has to be Earl King’s “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll),” which evokes both King’s intention and Jimi Hendrix’s spirit in Reid’s guitar playing twinned with Burnham’s wah-wah rave up. Interestingly, these loose, party blues that goes way over the acid rock top is a beautiful tribute to King, to whose memory the album is dedicated. The gorgeous version of Muddy Waters’ “No Escape From the Blues,” and the haunted, lonely version of “Trouble in Mind” (complete with fills by Reid on electric sitar and Gruenbaum on Fender Rhodes piano) set up for a killer finish, with a barrelhouse read of “The Blues Had a Baby and Called It Rock N Roll.” No Escape From the Blues features Ulmer in a unique role, that of the blues singer and shouter. Never has he sounded so expressive, emotionally compelling, or convincing vocally; and his guitar playing, while less present here than on his other recordings, is still there, snaking its way through this weird yet wonderful set. Highly recommended. This recording is indeed “future blues.””

Rolling Stone

“…There is an explicit urban aggression to Ulmer’s repossession of the Howlin’ Wolf, Earl King and John Lee Hooker songs here, superheated by Charlie Burnham’s electric fiddle and David Barnes’ sharp harp…”

“…50 Best Albums of 2003″

Living Blues

“…Deconstructed and reinterpreted, this is the blues, no apologies…”

Mojo

“…His singing, whether of other blues standbys or his own ‘Are You Glad To Be In America?’, is deep in the most traditional of grooves…”

 

Elevened

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Thom Jurek

“New York country-rock songwriter Dusty Wright has turned the amplifiers up on Elevened, his third solo outing after a virtual career playing in bands of varying degrees of total obscurity. No Depression and other media outlets have hailed Wright as a worthy successor to the original outlaw movement for his previous two outings. Thankfully, that hype has been minor. The guy can write, and he can sing, and most of all, he can rock. Elevened has plenty of country music in its veins and on its front porch — the restless waltz “Cuts Like a Blade” comes immediately to mind — but the raw, blazing electric guitars on “Dusty Road” and “Cherry Red Mustang” move the set to the left musically.

But it’s the swampy blues overdrive of “Farmer’s Daughter” that puts everything into perspective. Here is where the Cramps, the Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy, and the Red Devils all commingle on some unholy tavern’s stage with rotgut and cheap cigarettes for nourishment. Wright can pen the sweet sad ones as well, as evidenced by “Watching Angels Cry,” or turn all cinematic and, well, dusty on “The Devil’s Handmaid.” But the voodoo stroll on “Dead End” or the teen garage rockabilly rave-up on “Love Saves the Day” are the real treasures here. The too-reverent Texas country read of Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz” doesn’t cut it, but thankfully it’s at the end of the disk. The faithful country stuff that Wright does is capable and worthy, but when he lets it rock, he could create his own legend or be Jason Ringenberg’s replacement in the Scorchers.”

 

Blues & Grass

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BluesWax e-zine

“This is a high concept album. It’s an attempt to take Blues back to its original or aboriginal state, and the result is mesmerizing. 52nd Street Blues Project has stripped away so much of what we think of when we think of the Blues and somehow they end up with more and not less… Nowhere is the connection between sacred and secular more evident than in Queen Esther’s vocals. Her voice is smooth and crisp like an old-time Jazz vocalist, but her style is Sunday morning church choir soloist. This style takes center stage in the beautiful closing track “Sunnyland.””

CNET Reviews

“Queen Esthers searing vocals perfectly meld with James “Blood” Ulmers revamped but utterly soulful blues guitar. The band also includes violin, stand-up bass, and drums. Its a fresh new look at the blues.”

All Music Guide

“(But) as great as (Blues & Grass) is, Ulmer fans have heard much of this music before; the real revelation on this album is Queen Esther, whose uplifting songs and great singing are definite highlights on a consistently strong album. Just see if you can get Sunnyland or Im Goin out of your head at the end of the disc.”

Philadelphia citypaper.net

“Funky guitar genius James “Blood” Ulmer has friends in all the right places: Charles Burnham jams blue on fiddle. Aubrey Dayle’s drums push where needed and sit out where not. Mark Peterson’s bass offers cool counter commentary throughout, especially on the introspective “A Miniature of the Bass.” Best of all: Queen Esther sings the blues, sweet, clear and…

 

Talkin’ Fishbowl Blues

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All Music Guide

“Theres a decidedly Stones-y swagger to many of these tunes with just a touch of twang, and Queen Esther shows herself to be as versatile a vocalist as Tina (Turner), covering not only the lead vocals but nearly all the background vocals as well. She’s got a great voice (4 octave range) and maybe its her theater background but all her vocals (even the backing vox) are filled with passion and brimming with personality. Queen Esther writes about what she knows: mostly being a young woman transplanted to New York City and relationships, but shes a keen observer and turns some great phrases throughout. The band is Rock and Roll basics: guitars, bass and drums–and more guitars, and they play with just the right mixture of being together but playing loose. Jack Sprats production is crisp but not glossy and theres a freshness to the performances that implies they didnt play these songs to death hoping for the “perfect” take… Youll 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 and Roll album. Is there anything this woman cant do?” (4 out of 5 stars)

Amplifier

“A quick glance of the cover could confuse this release with Meshell Ndegeocellos Comfort Woman. Not really a blues album, yet aptly tagged as “Black Americana, Manhattan-via-Austin super-side-woman Esther melds roots, pop and R & B in a way Lucinda Williams, Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow never could on their best days. “Shine” rocks akin to Exile-era Stones, Love and The Way of the World ooze BB King sufferage via classic Philly soul grooves, New York City simmers with raucous urban funk riffage and Get It Right This Time floats neo-psychedelic overtones on a greasy backbeat to kill for. Who’s your mommy?”

rocknworld.com

“This album incorporates sounds of roots, blues (“So Real”), gospel (“Help Me”) and country. The one thing that comes through in every song is the power and soul in Queen Esthers voice. Some record executives may disagree with my assessment about the power of her voice because Queen Esther doesnt belt out songs like Christina Aguilera. But never mind the record executives. Thank goodness shes not like Christina Aguilera. Rather, the power of Queen Esthers voice is in the soulful way she delivers her songs. She doesnt need to over-emote like some singers because there is so much soul in her voice that youll feel what shes singing. The greatest example of this is in her cover of Tammy Wynettes “Stand By Your Man.” Im not kidding when I say the song gave me chills. It is a knockout and it alone makes this album worth having.Its a pretty safe bet that Queen Esther was influenced by some other classic artists beside Tammy Wynette. Talkin Fishbowl Blues begins with “Promise Me” in which Queen Esthers voice sounds pretty similar to Joni Mitchell. And the guitar in the title track sounds a lot like the Rolling Stones.Overall, this is a really solid effort. There were a couple songs (“Love” and “So Real”) that didnt quite grab me like the rest of the songs did. But that voice overcomes a lot. If Queen Esther were an athlete, shed be called a “throwback” and rightly so. She sings with the kind of soul you dont hear much anymore. And she doesnt need some record executive to help her manufacture it.”

No Depression

“(Queen Esthers) first full-length album shows that her own preferences run toward traditions that have somewhat lacked for an African-American presence of late. She calls her music “Black Americana”and makes it stick with a clutch of tastefully tuneful tracks that dabble in bluesy soul, pop, funk and country. Her cover of “Stand By Your Man” strips the song down to a weary womans blues without losing its twang. Highlights include “Shine” a bit of catchy swaggering rock, the aching lap-steel driven “Taster’s Choice” and the a capella “Help Me.” The album is an implicit statement of it’s own that however you slice up American roots music, those roots come in several shades.”

Fallen Angel Radio

“Queen Esther has definetly made a statement. “Talkin Fishbowl Blues” will leave you with a lasting impression of what shes all about. A well written and well produced debut from a lady who has quite a resume. She’s been in New York theatre, and now on the stage with her band. Smart, Solid, and Swanky, Queens music isnt “Black Americana” it’s just great music.”

Blues Matters Magazine

“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 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.”

Smother.net

“(Queen Esther) comes armed with one of those classic voices that no one will easily forget and is identifiable almost at the first instant.”

TheBestFemaleMusicians.com

“Queen Esther is an enigma within an enigma. (Her) voice is as strong and soulful as any Ive heard in a long time. She deserves her Queen moniker.”

NY Rock Street Beat

“…she is classically trained, and in possession of a four-octave range. So whats she singing swampy rock and blues for? The short answer is who cares, because she kills on the material here. (So) do you classify this as blues, or rock, or what? About the only word I can think of is smoking, because this disc is, from start to finish.”

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.”

de Recensent (The Netherlands)

“The first reference that shows itself is Joan Armatrading. This forgotten singer-songwriter from the 70s knew how to combine rock, blues and soul. Queen Esther is doing the same, but leans the most toward blues-rock. Sometimes shes even leaning so far that she echoes the propelling sound of Little Feat. It immediately happens in opening song Promise Me, but also in Leave Me Alone.”

Ear Candy

“This album has some of the catchiest songs on one record that Ive heard in a long, long time. Queen Esther combines the grittiness of Rolling Stones take on blues/rock, silky-smooth black-gospel harmonies with pop-sensibilities that makes you sit up and take notice.”

San Antonio Express-News

“Part country, folk, bluegrass, roots-rock, etc., Americana is hard enough to describe. Now heres the Queen and an Americana subgenre with a welcome twist. With Talkin Fishbowl Blues Queen Esther and a solid team, including several sharp guitarists, mix blues with R&B and touches of twang, rock n roll swagger and gospel harmony. She writes and sings about love found (Shine) and lost (Leave Me Alone). And she splits the difference without pulling punches. When she closes the disc with a spare, quirky take on Tammy Wynettes Stand by Your Man, theres a chance the Queen means it.”

KindaMusik

“Queen Esther rather pours it out strongly with blazing soul rockers like “Promise Me” and “Shine,” the opening songs of Talkin Fishbowl Blues. In some songs, such as the title song, a little bit of Stones (and Bette Midlesers) “Beast of Burden” is shining through.”

RootsTown Music Free-zine

“If our (ME) dares to place a practically unknown cd on number 1 of the annual list, it must be a very special cd. Thats 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 thats 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 doesnt venture on playing an instrument, but in her case its 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, Tasters Choice, New York City, and The Way of the World are my personal favorites, though. I remain with a single question: Why cant I find a reference to the great Joan Armatrading in any review? Because if you ask me, thats what Queen Esther is: Joans heiress. You can already guess my advice: find out, fast!”

Real Roots Cafe

“Queen Esther is, in the right sense of the phrase, 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 Wynettes 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.”

BluesWax e-zine

“On her first solo effort, Talkin’ Fishbowl Blues, Queen Esther turns in top-notch performances on song after song, with a voice that is at once both contemporary and timeless. There’s a confidence in her delivery that stands up to Jack Sprat’s ragged guitar, which defines a lot of the disc. The flip side of it is that as sexy and seductive as she can be, there’s also a sort of homey comfort in her voice, and that’s not something you find everywhere. To my ears, there’s not a weak spot on the disc.”

Net Rythyms

“Queen Esther’s finely-tuned pop sensibility is the icing on the cake, where tracks like Leave Me Alone embody catchy riffs and melodic hooks that bring you back for more. Throughout, (her) compelling sense of individual identity earns far more than an honourable mention, in fact a definite recommendation, for this seriously tasty release.”

hybridmagazine.com

“Bluesy, country rock in the Bonnie Raitt style sort of.”

High Bias

“Talkin’ Fishbowl Blues (is) an album of blues, soul and rock that maintains a stripped-down, earthy vibe while still exuding a smooth warmth. A gifted vocalist, assured songwriter and solid bandleader, (Queen) Esther gets down and dirty (“Leave Me Alone”), sly and soulful (“So Real”), fresh and funky (“Get It Right This Time”) and hits all point in between. Talkin’ Fishbowl Blues shows many facets, but it’s all one shiny diamond.”

A & A

Queen Esther’s voice is just a little too pretty for the blues. And that’s okay, because she doesn’t really play the blues (the title track is a snarky rocker, not unlike something off Jagged Little Pill). What she does have is a fine sense of style, and she colors her songs most impressively.”

Kweevak.com

” ‘Leave Me Alone’ has an attitude with its commanding instrumentation and potent vocals. Hidden in the midst of the track is an almost country twang jam suffused in the blues.”

 

Underneath A Brooklyn Moon

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Jazzitude

“(Queen Esthers) work on this CD is ultra-hip, not because of who she reminds the listener of, but precisely because, whatever influences she brings to the table, she manages to make you think of no one but herself.”

Audiophile Audition

“There’s a kind of raw naivet to Queen Esther’s voice. The way she slides into and out of each note, slurring her enunciation, with a sly hesitating sense of rhythm that just borders on slow, as if she’s listening and playing to an alternative beat. To be honest, she plays so fast and loose with her intonation that at first she seemed out of tune, but with time and multiple listenings, I began to see what she was doing. Queen Esther approaches her vocals more as an instrumentalist might, bending notes and delaying the timing to emphasize the solo. It’s masterful, but not everyone can pull this off. On songs like “Someday” (track 8), her approach creates a bittersweet quality that subtly works against the lyrics of the song with a powerful effect. On reflection, it’s obvious that Queen Esther puts a lot of thought into her performance, while at the same time she makes it seem graceful and carefree. That’s one of the hallmarks of a true virtuoso.”

All Music Guide

Hopkins definitely has the irony thing down — not only in terms of his ’40s-like attire, but also in terms of his often clever lyrics (which are skillfully handled by Queen Esther — a big-voiced singer with a very bluesy, gritty take on jazz). Hopkins, however, isn’t dorky about it; he and Esther show a genuine affection for different sides of ’40s culture (the film noir darkness as well as the quaint romanticism).

Jazz Not Jazz

(JC Hopkins’ Biggish Band and Queen Esther) excel in resurging the great American songbook of the likes of Porter, Gershwin or Berlin with fresh and original compositions. Mr. Hopkins founded his fourteen piece Biggish Band a few years ago and it has since then seen singers as diverse as Victoria Williams, Martha Wainwright, Syd Straw, and Madeleine Peyroux as lead singers. But it’s Queen Esther who brings the special magic.

Jazzitude

JC Hopkins Biggish Band plays a kind of swank, stylish big band jazz that mixes elements of swing and the classic big band era with elements from other eras of musical history so that the music is somehow both retro and modern. The songs here are good, solid efforts with arrangements that highlight the band’s talents. Most important, both the band and vocalist Queen Esther manage to convey that they are having real fun playing and singing this music without resorting to over-the-top gimmicks. There’s just too much good feeling about these performances not to be caught up in them. The emotions that come across are genuine instead of forced or produced. That goes a long way toward making this CD an enjoyable listen.

Queen Esther’s work on this CD is ultra-hip, not because of who she reminds the listener of, but precisely because, whatever influences she brings to the table, she manages to make you think of no one but herself.

Onewaymagazine.com

With a glamorous and lively vocalist, Queen Esther, and an assortment of wild horn players (you’d swear the trombone can talk!) this band sounds great in Brooklyn or anywhere else.

 

Toussaintville

cd_toussaintville

Midwest Record

“If you aren’t familiar with this band yet, they are called a repertoire band. This means they do tribute records that aren’t cheesy. The stuff they’ve done so far has always impressed. This time out, they single out another august cat that doesn’t seem to get the love he deserves, Allen Toussaint, who turned 75 this January and has left over 50 years of hits in his wake from all eras, styles and modes, even if this is one of the cats that write the book on Nawlins as we know it. Once again, no cheese here. Check this out and give the band and the master the proper love this set fills the air with.”

– Chris Spector

JazzWax.com

“One of the most surprisingly imaginative CDs to cross my desk in some time is Swingadelic’s Toussaintville (Zoho). The album pays tribute to the songs of Allen Toussaint, who turned 75 in January. The music is an intelligent and swinging fusion of big band jazz and soul-pop.
The album not only skillfully reminds the listener of Toussaint’s important contribution as a composer of top pop hits ( Southern Nights , What Do You Want the Girl to Do , Sneaking Sally Through the Alley and Whipped Cream ) but also does so through a jazz prism, never losing an ounce of Toussaint’s earthy intent.
Mind you, this isn’t an album of horns that come off like an awards show orchestra or a funky cruise ship band. These charts truly are fetching and respectful, retaining Toussaint’s New Orleans power and passion.
If you’re unfamiliar with Toussaint, this is a good introduction. It’s just big sophisticated fun, with one foot in the big bands and the other in the Big Easy.”

– Marc Myers

Audiophile Audition

”New Orleans and music go together like jambalaya, crayfish pie, and filet gumbo. Allen Toussaint is part of that wonderful New Orleans musical tradition and the tight little big band Swingadelic do right by him, with their release Toussaintville.

In this fifteen-track session, which is a delightful mixture of instrumental and vocal offerings, the band demonstrates that it knows its way around the Toussaint songbook, giving each track the right amount of funky-soul sound that is evocative of the Big Easy. While not every tune that Toussaint penned was instantly memorable, nevertheless there are many that became hits. One such track is Southern Nights ‚ on which John Bauers vocal captures the essence of the tune. Bauers follows this up with What Do You Want The Girl To Do ‚ which swings along with heartfelt emotion. Another wicked vocal track is the soulful Ruler Of My Heart‚ on which Queen Esther lays bare her feelings.

Get Out Of My Life, Woman lets guitarist Boo Reiners and trumpeter Carlos Francis get down and dirty with a solid groove supported by a strong back beat delivered by drummer Jimmy Coleman. In a somewhat more raucous vein, Everything I Do Got To Be Funky ‚ gives trombonists Susman, Edwards, and Pawley a chance to make their own statement. One of Toussaint’s biggest hits was Whipped Cream ‚ which Herb Alpert took to the top of the charts in 1965. The version offered here is more whipped and less cream.¨ù. All in all, the album is a fitting tribute to one of New Orleans’ musical icons.”

– Pierre Giroux