Weird at My School: Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens

by DJ El Toro

I just spent the last six days helping a friend move cross-country, from Seattle to NYC. In a compact car. Aside from the gumball-sized hailstones and tornado warning in rural MN, it was pretty monotonous. But the carrot on the stick? Knowing that Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings were headlining Central Park Summer Stage on Sunday, August 17.

I don’t need to tell KEXP fans that Sharon Jones kicks ass live; heck, her version of “Let Them Knock” on Live at KEXP Volume Four is proof a-plenty. And I dug the instrumental funk styling of openers Menahan Street Band (featuring members of the Dap-Kings, El Michels Affair, and the Budos Band), too — hard to believe this huge gig was their first live show. But the act that snapped me right back into shape after 3,000-plus grueling miles in a cramped Volvo was Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens.

Resplendent in a two-piece royal blue ensemble and a sequined silver cap — with matching sneakers! — Shelton powered through a short set of uplifting soul-gospel numbers. And when she was ready for the occasional break, Naomi would simply pass the microphone to one of the four Gospel Queens — who enriched the gig with full-bodied, rough-edged harmonies reminiscent of ’60s girl group the Bluebelles — and let them take a solo turn.

The full-length debut from Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens is set to drop in early 2009. I suspect you’ll be hearing a lot of it on KEXP. But why wait — or drive for six days solid — to enjoy such wonderful music? Click below and check out her new single, “What Have You Done?” and draw your own conclusions.

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DJ El Toro is the host of the overnight show In Between Sleep & Reason, Wednesday mornings from 1 AM to 6 AM on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle and kexp.org. His column, Weird At My School, appears every Monday on the KEXP Blog.

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