Queen Esther‘s new album, The Other Side, is unlike anything else you’ve heard in recent years…or possibly ever. Queen Esther calls it her “Black Americana album,” often setting her soulful vocals atop classic country-inspired Americana melodies replete with rustic strings.
The album’s first single “Oh, Sun” and especially the track “I’ve Come Undone Again” are prime examples of Queen Esther’s signature “Black Americana” sound. An alternative take of the latter song is included as a bonus track.
Queen Esther’s cover of “My Big Iron Skillet” is by far my favorite track. A bluesy, classic country contemporary of Loretta Lynn’s “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” the Wanda Jackson song is the perfect fit for Queen Esther’s voice and musical style.
The album also features two covers of the Steve Miller Band’s “Jet Airliner” – my favorite being the funkier bonus track version.
The beautiful finale “I Feel Like Going Home” is another standout track. As I said when Queen Esther first released the song two years ago, hers is the most moving cover of the song I’ve heard since the Inner Voices choir performed it on My So-Called Life twenty years ago.
Queen Esther is one of those singers that should be heard by everybody everywhere. Seriously, she should be booked on Mountain Stage, guest singing with The Roots on Jimmy Fallon, have a cameo singing in the Bluebird Café on Nashville and performing on every other tv and radio show that features music. If nothing else, there should be more than just my blog sharing her sound on Hype Machine since 2007. Sigh. Hopefully the long-awaited release of her new “Black Americana” album, The Other Side, will wake more people up to her talent. That voice with that music? Just too good. To prove my point, here’s her new lyric video:
Americana singer-songwriter David Luning was a standout in last week’s shockingly good season premiere of American Idol (just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in!). His independent album, Just Drop By, sounds as good as his audition. You can download 2 free, legal mp3s by signing up for his email list at his official site and hear samples below…
The Coal Men’s fourth release, Escalator, is solid Americana album set for release by Todd Snider’s Aimless Records on August 27th. The standout tracks truly standout – particularly the Jack Whitesque blues-rock grind “Stuck” and the panoramic ballad “Tennessee.” You can download a free, legal mp3 of the former and stream the latter below. Also of note are the quirky, laidback blues ditty “Sanity” and the amped up rock riffs of “One Thing At a Time.”
I really wanted to hate this album, or at least feel indifferent enough to ignore it. I tried, really I did. I didn’t even listen to the unrequested advance promo I received. Then a second promo arrived from Jones’ record label, so I thought I’d see how bad it is while I mopped the kitchen floor. I still can’t believe I like a Tom Jones album. The man best known to my generation for his vomit-inducing cover of Prince’s “Kiss” and even more atrocious dance hit “Sexbomb” has recorded what I must admit is a twisted, bluesy and actually quite good Americana album. A collaboration with producer Ethan Johns, the album was recorded in Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio and features covers by such artists as Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and The Low Anthem.
The weird, Western noir isn’t quite Nick Cave, the blues wailers aren’t quite Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and the reflective old man country songs aren’t quite Johnny Cash, but you can hear those influences in several songs and they definitely suit Jones’ voice. And there’s no denying the instrumentation on the album is superb.
Highlights are Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song” (the video of which you can watch below), Tom Waits’ “Bad As Me,” Joe Henry’s “All Blues Hail Mary,” “Hit or Miss,” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Soul of a Man.” The album also includes a cover of The Low Anthem’s “Charlie Darwin.”
So yeah, judge me if you must, but I like a Tom Jones album.