The Other Side

Our admiration for Queen Esther is almost beyond measure.” - Luc Meert


This album is amazing. And very difficult to classify. Can you imagine a black Lucinda Williams? Not like when she plays the blues torn from her first albums, no. A black Lucinda Williams in pop, rhythm, blues and even gender roots Americana. So it sounds, if you can imagine such a hodgepodge somehow, the latest album from this brutal, original, explosive singer. A different album, not rare or difficult, full of good songs performed by a powerful voice. Absolutely delicious.” - Antonio El Nino

Vanity Fair (Spain)

Whether she's delivering her own material or interpreting others, Esther makes clear her literary and dramatic roots. Even when she takes on traditional blues or pop music themes such as affairs of the heart or erotic infatuation, she mines them for subtlety and nuance rather than cliche, and her testimonials of longing and heartbreak are girded with emotional steel (Love Is A Wrecking Ball, for example is wracked with anguish and powered by a survivor's determination.) She also casts a wide stylistic net: she can fire out a tough-crunching uptempo blues anthem (Jet Airliner, Somebody Else's Baby) with brio, but most of this disc is country flavored (although she's now based in New York, Esther hails from the South, where the two genres -- and cultures -- have always existed in close, if not necessarily harmonious proximity.) Pedal and lap steel guitars, boom-chick rhythms and Atkins/Travis guitar picking dominate this set. Esther's vocals, meanwhile, even at their hardest rocking, invoke the high-and-lonesome plaintiveness of the honky-tonk/bluegrass/rockabilly continuum as much as they do the harsher timbered blues tradition.” - David Whiteis

— Living Blues

Every song is sung with passion and fire, by this underrated female singer who should be a musical giant.” - Paul Riley

Country Music People

Ray Charles, with Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music, (1962 ABC- Paramount) erased any doubts that black musicians can perform country music as good as anyone. Though he did it with full orchestra backing and complex arrangements, the essential component of good story telling in a romantic context was front and center. Queen Esther has been around country, blues, and gospel her whole life. Her attendance in rural churches filled with the sound of the sacred steel guitars led her to combine country twang with southern blues and hymns, morphing into Black Americana. For The Other Side, Queen Esther composed most of the material, and the accompanying band is superb in their supporting role, as she takes the listener back to where she came from. On her 2004 release Talkin' Fishbowl Blues, Queen Esther took a headfirst plunge into rock and roll, taking a page out of the Rolling Stones playbook. With this record, her country and gospel roots are more evident, though there are a few country tinged rockers in the mix. "Sunnyland," has a hard edge to it, with stinging guitar licks, but the lyrics are directly connected to her spiritual leanings. She goes full country on "I've Come Undone Again," the sweet fiddle playing of Charles Burnham taking it down a long dirt road, and Bob Hoffnar on pedal steel, accentuates the pleading vocal on the melancholic "Oh, Sun." Both of these reveal her total mastery of the country ballad, where heartbreak and pain hang heavy on the line. But that is not to say that all is slow and simmering, her cover of "Jet Airliner," (Steve Miller Band) is classic radio rock, as is "Somebody's Else's Baby, " complete with power chords and rousing choruses. She goes into truck stop jukebox mode with "Sadness Everlasting," this time Raphael McGregor taking over pedal steel duties. He reprises the sacred steel on "Love Is A Wrecking Ball," supported solely by the acoustic guitar of Jon Diaz, as Queen Esther proves she can sing with any manner of accompaniment. "Will You Or Won't You," would be right at home in the Carter Family songbook, and the title track is a beautiful rendition of where gospel meets the wide open spaces. ” - James Nadal

All About Jazz

A masterpiece of an extremely talented singer and songwriter who can compete with the major players in this field, such as Lucinda Williams.” - Jan Marius Franzen

Blues Magazine

It’s the melancholy country cuts that Queen Esther excels in. 'I’ve Come Undone Again' is a particular highlight; a splendid slice of melancholy country complete with Hank Williams-esque melody and all. 'Love Is a Wrecking Ball' and 'I Feel Like Going Home' are wrought with emotion and are likely the best tracks here.”

— Americana UK

The most exciting Afro-American release of the year, however, is Queen Esther’s The Other Side. Born and raised in South Carolina and Georgia, she too absorbed every kind of Southern music, rural and urban, before moving to New York to focus on blues, jazz and theater. On this new album, however, she unveils her obvious affection for and mastery of country music. She sings Steve Miller’s “Jet Airliner” (by the Creole songwriter Paul Pena) and original gospel and rockabilly tunes, but the bulk of the album is devoted to hard-country numbers that could have been taken from a Connie Smith or Lee Ann Womack record but were in fact composed by Queen Esther herself. These are ballads and two steps about romantic crises, and the strategic unsteadiness in her glowing voice suggests not the cool self-assurance of an urban sophisticate but the heart-on-a-sleeve transparency of a small-town innocent. Her songs are so sturdily constructed that her powerful delivery of Wanda Jackson’s “My Big Iron Skillet” and Charlie Rich’s “I Feel Like Going Home” sounds like more of the same. Backed by two of Cassandra Wilson’s best musicians—guitarist Marvin Sewell and fiddler Charles Burnham—as well as Raphael McGregor’s steel guitar, Queen Esther ties the loose strands of black and white churches, juke joints and honky tonks, blue notes and twang into knots too tangled to be untied. She reminds us that each half of the phrase, Afro-Americana, helps the other.” - Geoffrey Himes