This review appears in the May 2021 issue of Country Music People. Thank you for reading this version.
Queen Esther is now living in New York but, she is very much a woman of the South. Raised in Atlanta, her music, a mix of country, gospel, blues, and Americana, is very much rooted in the South and the history of black American music. The singer’s new album is the usual quality mix of cover versions and originals.
Queen Esther has a great passion for music as we can hear on a song like John The Revelator. This track dates back to 1930 and Blind Willie Johnson. It’s a gospel/blues call and response song and Queen Esther brings gospel fervour to the song. The minimal backing track of only a drum and a few handclaps lets the vocal blaze through the classic song.
We get the country side of Queen Esther on a remake of the old song She Thinks I Still Care which here becomes He Thinks I Still Care. The original was written by country legend Dickie Lee with Steve Duffy and almost every country singer of any importance has recorded it most notably George Jones. Queen Esther’s soulful voice is perfect for this classic song. The backing track melts into the background letting listeners concentrate on her voice. The singer also tackles the 1927 country/blues track Lonesome Road which is a perfect song for her. Her vocal merges well with the backing track which includes a neat acoustic guitar solo.
Anyone familiar with Queen Esther’s music will know she is a fine songwriter. The new album has two versions of The Whiskey Wouldn't Let Me Pray. First, we get the electric version which jogs along in a country/blues way with Queen Esther’s vocal really capturing the mood of this high-quality song. Over on the acoustic version - which ends the album - the song has a more blues feel. A superb song.
Back with the cover versions: Queen Esther sings The Eagles’ Take It To The Limit, which originally appeared on the classic album One Of These Nights. The sparkling new subdued arrangement with Queen Esther’s lonesome, powerful vocal may be the best cover version - so far. Wonderful.
Gild The Black Lily is packed with very high-quality music from the wildly underrated singer. This is the kind of album that should have a fairly broad appeal to fans of country, blues and gospel. Queen Esther has one of those great voices that demand to be heard. Her music embraces the history of black music and her soulful voice is a bit like an echo from the past embracing blues, gospel even the great Motown era. Gild The Black Lily has its roots deep in the past but seems relevant today, this is an essential buy. — Paul Wiley (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)