The Gate City Divas – Goin’ To Town
Self-Release – 2015
15 tracks; 55 minutes
Shiela Klinefelter was the bass player in Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King’s band until Joe’s untimely death. As producer of this album (dedicated to Smokin’ Joe) Shiela has brought together eight female artists from the Greensboro, NC, who sing and between them play a wide range of instruments. Pulling in some friends from across the blues world, Shiela assembled a great cast list for this all original album. The main writer is Kristy Jackson who contributed to 10 of the songs but fellow Divas Robin Stamps Doby Easter, Allison King-Jordan and Shiela herself all contribute material, the only tune from outside the eight Divas being written by keyboardist Dave Fox. The remaining Divas are Julie Bean, Lauren Myers, Melva Houston and Virginia Masius. Somewhere on the album the Divas play drums, bass, trombone, keys and all eight sing. A huge number of other musicians contribute, including guitarist Bob Margolin and his regular drummer Chuck Cotton; several tunes feature horns by Dustin Jennings (trumpet), Brent Davis, Scott Adair and Mike Caruso (sax). All eight of the Divas sing lead on at least one song.
Opener “Nova Scotia Moment” belies its title with some New Orleans rhythms accentuated by Andy Squint’s rub board, Eric Smith’s second-line drumming and Dustin’s trumpet work, Robin’s vocals being excellent. The slinky “Slide” has writer Kristy’s deeper voice and some great guitar work from Bubba Klinefelter while Kristy’s churchy piano provides the main support for Melva’s soulful voice on the bluesy “I Got It Bad”. Julie leads on the funky “Baby’s Been Burned”, the band and Scott Adair’s sax setting a gently funky rhythm; Shiela sings the sad ballad “It’s Not Always Gonna Be This Way”, Bubba’s guitar work subtle and understated.
“Dirty Little” features Allison on her own song about “the Devil taking your soul”, her strong voice well supported by Bill Jordan’s solid guitar work. Melva’s gospel-infused voice leads on the heart-tugging soul ballad “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” with excellent piano and guitar work. Kristy’s “Spare Me From The Bottom” is an acapella gospel piece with Allison and Shiela on choral backing vocals. Virginia sings the jazzy “Don’t Have The Blues No More” with a nice horn arrangement and some fine guitar work from Bubba and David Bolton; it seems that having acquired a new relationship the blues is no longer appropriate and she may have to shift into pop! Allison’s “Long Way Home” again features Bill’s guitar on a melodic song about being on the road while the funky, horn-driven “Skinny White Girls” finds Lauren complaining that these girls are everywhere but “they sure don’t speak for me”.
Robin’s vocal gives “You Didn’t Feel A Thing” a real touch of soul while Melva takes us back to the blues on the uptempo “Take It Back” with Bob Margolin on guitar and Bubba showing that he can blow some harp as well as play guitar. The last two tracks both feature a full choir of all eight Divas: Julie handles the fine ballad “Where Would I Be” which features writer Dave Fox’s lyrical piano; the album closes with Shiela singing her own “Last Minute Boogie” which does what the title suggests in a stomping finale with swirling organ from Kristy and a solid horn arrangement.
There is plenty to enjoy here with not a dud track and several fine vocal performances, all backed by an ever-changing support cast of musicians. Blues and soul fans will certainly find something to enjoy here.