Of her first album Talkin' Fishbowl Blues, Amplifier says: "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 Lucinda Williams, Melissa Etheridge and Sheryl Crow never could on their best days," while AllMusic says, "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?" Produced by Queen Esther, The Other Side is her latest release – a sprawling sonic wonderland that walks with a soulful twang, full of feeling and longing and regret, while deeply abiding in the blues. Ultimately, this is an aural testimony to the music that raised Queen Esther and continues to inform her deeply held conviction that music shouldn’t be divisive.
This album features stellar performances from: Marvin Sewell (electric guitar), Bruce Edwards (acoustic guitar), Jon Diaz (acoustic and electric guitar), Ronny Drayton (electric guitar), Ralph White (electric guitar and background vocals) Charles Burnham (violin), Bob Hoffnar (pedal steel guitar), Raphael McGregor (lap steel guitar), Jon Loyd (piano and background vocals), Naisha Walton (bass) and G. Earl Grice (drums)
A 2008 Grand Prize winner of the Jazzmobile Vocal Competition and a 2013 Regional Finalist in the Mountain Stage NewSong Contest, Queen Esther has performed with guitar icon James "Blood" Ulmer internationally in various blues, rock and jazz configurations, including Blues Experience Raw, The Black Rock Experience and most recently, his seminal harmelodic collective Odyssey. She is a featured vocalist on his much lauded album No Escape From The Blues (included in Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2003) and lends her vocals and songwriting talents to The 52nd Street Blues Project’s album Blues & Grass.
Steeped in the gospel music traditions of the Church of God in Christ (C.O.G.I.C.) from a very early age while surrounded by a soundscape of freeform radio, countrypolitan music and show tunes, Queen Esther grew up in the Deep South -- Atlanta, GA and Charleston, SC respectively -- as the middle child and the only daughter, with six brothers and a four-octave range. She began her gifted education in English and creative writing as a five-year-old.
Serious operatic training as a kid led to hard time in Austin, Texas -- in musicals with director/performer Boyd Vance as well as on the live music scene with Moving Parts and eventually Ro-Tel and The Hot Tomatoes -- opening for artists as varied as Larry Carlton, The Neville Brothers, Crowded House and Chuck Berry. It was guitarist "Big Al" Gilhausen who introduced her to the legendary blues guitar legend Hubert Sumlin. Because of their strong influence, she lost herself in the blues and found her way back to her gospel/country roots.
Her love of cowpunk, 70's dinosaur rock, black country-gospel music and Broadway musicals eventually converged in her creatively when she relocated to New York City. Her work as a vocalist, lyricist, songwriter, actor/solo performer and playwright/librettist led to creative collaborations in neo-vaudeville, alt-theater, various alt-rock configurations, (neo) swing bands, trip hop DJs, spoken word performances, jazz combos, jam bands, various blues configurations, original Off Broadway plays and musicals, experimental music/art noise and performance art.
After forming the avant-blues duo Hoosegow with guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp and releasing the critically acclaimed album Mighty (Homestead), Queen Esther beat out more than 6,000 hopefuls to land the role of The Voice of Heaven in the original cast of the 1st national tour of the Broadway musical RENT. Queen Esther signed a publishing deal with Bug Music, self-released Talkin’ Fishbowl Blues, a critically acclaimed slice of Black Americana, and later released the well-received jazz album What is Love?
Featured at The Kennedy Center earlier this year, Queen Esther and her jazz collective The Hot Five perform regularly in The Salon’s annual New Year’s Eve Eve fete as well as seasonal events produced by Michael Arenella and his Dreamland Orchestra (specializing in jazz from the 1920s) including the biannual fete of the summer, The Jazz Age Lawn Party. Queen Esther wrote and co-starred in The Billie Holiday Project -- a musical based on newly discovered short stories by Zora Neale Hurston, augmented by Ms. Holiday’s rare sides -- at The Apollo Theater’s Music Café in 2012, a project that she continues to develop.
Rooted in her Southern upbringing, infused by her Texas experiences and nurtured within the infamous venues of New York City and beyond, Queen Esther is poised to bring a new sound to the world.
“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, Paste
"Secrets do have a way of leaking out, and one that desperately needs to be heard is Americana/country/ jazz singer, Queen Esther. Every song is sung with passion and fire, by this underrated female singer who should be a musical giant."
-Country Music People
"Queen Esther literally has the voice of an angel."
"In a world where so many artists are carbon copies of one another or rely on technology to hide a lack of talent or originality, Queen Esther comes across like a real lady with real talent who isn't afraid to bare her soul to the world."
“With a voice and guitar, Queen Esther helps you enter The Other Side. Simple intentions and promises gently take your hand as Queen Esther smiles the knowledge that ‘sweet dirt can’t hold me’ before she hops aboard Ronny Drayton’s jet fueled guitar lead to arrive in “Sunnyland.”
-The Alternate Root
"Queen Esther is, in the right sense of the phrase, a special case. Armed with a classically trained four octave reaching voice, this Atlanta, Georgia Black singer with a stop in Austin, Texas, leaves for New York where she expresses her singing and writing talent in almost any imaginable musical genre (from vaudeville to art noise) and collaboration."
-Real Roots Cafe