Daptone's latest release by Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens, out Tuesday, May 26, is a little bit Sam Cooke, a lot '60s soul, and all in servitude to the Lord. “What Have You Done, My Brother” is such a fine record. Lyrically, it's all gospel but numerous tracks sound straight out of the '60s soul bin. While that may sound foolish knowing it's a Daptone record, credit Cliff Driver and the various Dap-Kings members that play on this record for really giving it a nice soundbed. Also, credit the Gospel Queens - Edna Johnson, Bobbie Jean Gant, and Cynthia Langston - as they really enliven the call-and-response with Shelton.
Driver, the musical director of the group, is a pianist who has backed numerous soul legends such as the R and B of R&B... Ruth Brown, Solomon Burke, and even had a stint in Latin music working with the Johnny Ortega Band. If you recognize the lead vocalist, it's because she appeared on the Desco 45 “41st St. Breakdown” by Naomi Davis and the Knights of Forty First Street and on The Sugarman Three's “Promised Land.”
The album was culled mainly from sessions in the summer of 2007 with some even predating that. The title track is the most secular of the material and has a distinct Daptone sound, which may be the reason why it was chosen as the lead single. Elsewhere “I'll Take The Long Road” and “I Need You To Hold My Hand” really dig deep into the gospel roots and are the two showcases on the album. The former leads with the same guitar lick as Cooke's “That's Where It's At” and is a slow gospel burner. Shelton sings with passion about walking side-by-side on her journey to redemption.
While she's not the firecracker that Sharon Jones is, Naomi exudes a confidence that more than makes up for the lack of sass. After all, who says you have to have attitude to make a good album? With the opening chords on “What Is This,” which resemble the opening of Cooke classic “A Change Is Gonna Come” (which is also the album closer), you get a sense that you'll be on a long but righteous road of glory. If you have a set of headphones for your walk, be sure to bring this album with you.