Release Date: Jul 29, 2014
Record label: Daptone
Genre(s): R&B, Soul, Gospel, Retro-Soul, Deep Funk Revival, Northern Soul, Black Gospel
Gospel music, at its most potent, is often a shock to the system. Hardcore, thrown down, lightning bolts and sanctification, it hits the core before you even process what you’re hearing. There is no doubting Naomi Shelton’s gospel bona fides. A voice of baked clay and fire, the old-school exhorter can lay back in a pocket then wail spring-loaded with the kind of fervor that torches the most worn-in resistance to ashes.
Daptone Records continues its impeccable winning streak, plucking older artists (Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley) from relative obscurity and bringing them the wider audience their music and artistry so richly deserves. With their second release for the label, Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens prove themselves a more than worthy addition to what is proving to be a stellar catalog of contemporary soul music from artists steeped in the genre’s best traditions. Where their debut, 2009’s What Have You Done, My Brother?, sounded a bit sparse at times and was far more piano-driven in its arrangements, Cold War amps up the soul quotient, filling in each track with a full band sound that perfectly complements the vocal works of these soulful ladies who, in turn, sound settled into and comfortable in their sound.
Gospel and rhythm & blues have long been close siblings even if they don't always acknowledge each other in public -- many early R&B hits were essentially secularized versions of classic sacred numbers, and dozens of soul stars got their start singing with gospel groups -- so it certainly makes sense that the soul revivalists at Daptone Recordings would open their arms to the talents of Naomi Shelton, who has sung both Saturday night and Sunday morning music over the course of her career that's spanned six decades. Shelton's second album for Daptone, Cold World, mixes elements of traditional gospel with '60s-influenced soul, and while there's less of a churchy feel to this album than 2009's What Have You Done, My Brother?, it certainly fits in with the mindset of acts like Curtis Mayfield and the Staple Singers, who weren't afraid to add some Christian-leaning commentary to their music. "Sinner," "Heaven Is Mine," "Humble Me," and the title track all have the slinky feel of vintage soul (Shelton's longtime musical director Cliff Driver and Daptone chief Gabriel Roth, the latter of whom wrote six of the album's 12 numbers, have helped give this music a groove that's authentic yet unforced), while Shelton's voice -- compassionate and muscular, with just a hint of sass -- has both the power and the emotional heft to bring these tunes to life, not so much preaching as offering her audience advice about life lessons she learned the hard way.
Naomi Shelton has been singing the Lord’s praises longer than most of us have been alive. Born in the early 1940s, she began performing with her sisters at their small church in Midway, Alabama. After graduating high school and discovering soul music, she moved first to Florida and then to New York City, where she continued singing in church but also held court in Brooklyn nightclubs under the name Naomi Davis.
You'd be forgiven for assuming this is a straight gospel record. Song titles like "Thank You Lord" and "Heaven Is Mine" point to well documented subject matter, but Naomi Shelton disagrees. This is a soul record first and foremost, she claims, and upon listening to Cold World, one can see her point. This is Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens' sophomore release through Daptone Records, a label known for highlighting the talents of seasoned but lesser-known artists, and the trademark Daptone soul and funk sound is evident.In many ways, Cold World almost plays like a live album.
Brooklyn label Daptone specialises in recapturing the spirit of retro soul and funk records. It’s latest release, Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens’ second album ‘Cold World’, could be mistaken for a set excavated from late-’60s Memphis. Recorded live on eight-track tape, the instrumentals have the hallmarks of Al Green producer Willie Mitchell, with gentle organ stabs, bluesy guitar licks and snappy snare drums.
Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens — Cold World (Dap-Tone)“I was born!” Naomi Shelton’s second album opens with a fulsome choir, her time-scratched, experience altered alto sweetened by trilling harmony. It’s a moment of satiety in a mostly disciplined cut, which soon pulls back to just the main vocal. Seen-everything phrases are punctuated by hard upbeats and scratched by syncopated bass.