Talkin' Fishbowl Blues

Not really a blues album, yet aptly tagged as ‘Black Americana,’ Manhattan-via-Austin super-side-woman Queen Esther melds roots. pop and R&B in a way that Lucinda Williams, Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow never could on their best days.”

— Amplifier

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… 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?” - Sean Westergaard

— (4 out of 5 stars)

Queen Esther's 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.”

— No Depression

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.”

— Blues Matters

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

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.”

— De Recensent (The Netherlands)

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.”

— Ear Candy

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 Midler's) “Beast of Burden” is shining through.”

— Kindamusik

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.”

— San Antonio Express-News

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!”

— Rootstown Music Free-Zine (The Netherlands)