The Gate City Divas – Diva Revolution
Self-Release – 2020
12 tracks; 48 minutes
In the August 2016 Blues Blast review of the Gate City Divas’ debut album Goin’ To Town I concluded that “Blues and soul fans will certainly find something to enjoy here” and that comment applies equally here. The Divas come from North Carolina and the personnel is largely unchanged with Shiela Klinefelter again producing and her fellow Divas all taking at least one lead vocal, as well as writing half the material. Alongside Shiela, the Divas are Melva Houston, Kristy Jackson, Robin Doby Easter, Allison King-Jordan, Julie Bean, Lauren Myers, and Virginia Masius; several of the ladies contribute to the music, Shiela and Virginia on bass, Allison and Kristy on keys, Lauren on drums. A lengthy list of other musicians involved includes Bubba Klinefelter, Bill Jordan, Andy Squint and Benjy Johnson on guitar, Dave Fox on keys, Kelly Pace, Eric Smith and Chuck Cotton on drums, Roger Kors and Bobby Kelly on bass, Andy Squint and Chi Sharpe on percussion, Emanuel Wynter on violin, Bubba Klinefelter on harp, Dustin Jennings on trumpet and Mike Caruso on sax – phew, that’s a lot of musicians involved in the project!
Opener “Let Love Lead The Way” was written by Shiela and Roger Kohrs. It has a funky rhythm with violin and trumpet accents as Allison sings the positive (if rather repetitive) lyrics, the Divas providing a full chorus in support. Perennial favourite “Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City” is always welcome on any album and although it is always hard to compete with Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s original Melva does an excellent job here on a full production with no fewer than three guitar players, horns, violin and latin percussion. Kristy takes the vocal lead on her own “Beautiful Rain”, a positive song with a loping reggae beat and Julie covers a more recent song, Shannon Curfman’s “Few And Far Between”, a full-on blues-rocker. A run of four originals follows: Melva takes a wry look at the problems of middle-aged ladies on her own composition “Hot Flash Hotel”, a proper blues with a stripped-back accompaniment with Bubba’s harp prominent. The song borrows from “Heartbreak Hotel”, notably in the opening section: “Now that I’m turning 60 I have a new place to dwell, it’s down at the end of Hormone Street, at Hot Flash Hotel”! “Mirrors And Smoke” is Allison’s song, co-written with Bill Jordan and she sings in an easy-going style as keys and congas bring an island sway to the tune, Bill adding a jazz-tinged electric guitar solo. Kristy’s “Part Of Me” is a powerful portrayal of how to survive a love gone wrong, Kristy’s organ, Emanuel’s central violin solo and the choir adding drama to a strong song. The title track was written by guitarist Benjy Johnson and features Lauren’s deeper vocals set against the choir as she sounds determined to be a proud woman and celebrate the “Diva Revolution”.
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” is another often recorded number and features Robin who certainly gives her all as she is pushed by Dave’s insistent piano and brooding horns. Andy Squint wrote “Push The Limit” and plays the guitar on his song which brings Virginia to the mike for a soulful number with a fine horn arrangement, the Divas providing some powerful backing vocals. The Reverend Gary Davis’ “I Heard The Angels Singing” again features Melva in a spare arrangement with just acoustic guitar, bass, tambourine and drums, the Divas sounding appropriately distant on the backing vocals. Shiela’s “Me And My Friends” celebrates the Divas’ music and friendship on a catchy shuffle which closes the album on a joyful note.
An enjoyable and varied album.