Recommended if You Like
Sheryl Crow Carmen MacRae Ella Fitzgerald

Genres You Will Love
Moods: Solo Female Artist Moods: Type: Vocal Blues: Blues-Rock Country: Americana Easy Listening: American Popular Song

By Location
United States - NY - New York City United States - New York

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Queen Esther

Queen Esther grew up as the middle child and the only daughter in the semi-rural environs of the Deep South with six brothers, a four-octave range and an IQ that set her firmly in the gifted program for English and creative writing as a five year old. While attending a prestigious performing arts high school in Atlanta GA, she thrived in the Governor's Honors Program in drama and was cast in many citywide productions, such as Bernstein's MASS with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Thanks to ARTS Recognition and Talent Search (sponsored by the National Foundation for the Arts), she competed for and won several scholarships internationally in theater. As luck would have it, she chose the University of Texas and exploded on the local music scene in Austin as a member of Ro-Tel and the Hot Tomatoes, a regional favorite specializing in girl group music that began as a gag in the infamous local comedy troupe Esther's Follies.

It was “Big Al” Gilhausen, the guitarist in Ro-Tel, who introduced her to the legendary guitarist Hubert Sumlin. Because of his immediate influence, she lost herself in the blues and found her way back to her country gospel roots. With a childhood of 70s freeform radio on the airwaves, augmented by a steady diet of Hee-Haw, The Lawrence Welk Show and Soul Train – and the overwhelming presence of a rural sanctified black church, filled with sacred steel – the Black Americana sound was intact and in place, waiting patiently to be heard.

In time, Queen Esther relocated to New York City and flourished in the alt-music/alt-theater scene. Her work as a vocalist, lyricist, songwriter and actor/solo performer and playwright led to creative collaborations in neo-vaudeville, alternative 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. Somewhere in this explosion of creativity and ideas, she finished a BA in Screenwriting from The New School and pushed toward developing her ideas, irregardless of genre.

By the time she joined forces with guitarist Elliot Sharp as the acoustic alt-blues duo Hoosegow to create the much lauded CD Mighty (Homestead/1996), the Queen had managed to beat out more than 6,000 hopefuls from over five major US cities to land a plumb role in the original cast of the first national tour of the Broadway musical RENT.

As her songs grew, Queen Esther was cast in Bravo's reality tv series The It Factor (2001) and had already begun developing The Big Payback, a solo show about reparations, when 9/11 happened. She didn’t hesitate to shift gears, hosting and performing in Queen Esther’s Stagedoor Canteen in the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster, a weekly hour-long USO-style variety show at Tribeca Playhouse that welcomed Broadway performers and showfolk to entertain the Ground Zero relief workers for free. Subsequently, the show won a 2002 special Drama Desk Award.

While working as a vocalist with Grammy Award-nominated songwriter/pianist JC Hopkins and his Biggish Band (Underneath A Brooklyn Moon – Tigerlily/2005), Queen Esther took a lead role in George C. Wolfe's critically acclaimed new musical Harlem Song (2002) and followed this Audelco award-nominated performance with a requested appearance to sing at The White House for President Bush, the First Lady, full cabinet and invited guests. Produced by Vernon Reid (Living Colour), her guest vocals on James "Blood" Ulmer's No Escape From The Blues (Hyena/2003) garnered praise while earning a spot in Rolling Stone's pick of The Best 50 CDs of 2003. Her vocals and songwriting are also present on Mr. Ulmer's much lauded black-folk effort Blues & Grass: The 52nd St. Blues Project (Chesky/2004).

When a kismet introduction to musician/songwriter Alejandro Escovedo led to a publishing deal with Bug Music in 2003, Queen Esther jumped at the chance to start her own label and self-release her debut CD. Of Talkin’ Fishbowl Blues (EL Recordings/2004), C-Ville Weekly says, “Unlike most modern blues singers, Queen Esther is not afraid to learn from many genres and then use their essential strengths to add telling details to her own stories. She quietly pleads with lyrics that use both the bluntness and crooked wit of the blues tradition to draw an emotionally detailed portrait of the romantic dramas awaiting a young, smart New York woman who moves with ease through the avant and blues worlds. Much of her emotional landscape is given extra dimensions by a band whose slightly off kilter yet precisely played licks and beats prove they know musical power can be created without showboating. In a genre increasingly dominated by songwriters afraid to tell their stories Queen Esther and group demonstrate truth talking and entertainment were both tools for the true blues artist,” while 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 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 and Roll album. Is there anything this woman can’t do?” (4 out of 5 stars)

After winning the 2008 Jazzmobile Vocal Competition, it’s clear that Queen Esther nurtures her unique sound while thriving in ongoing creative partnerships in jazz.