For Queen and country: Black Americana artist gets down to her roots

Brooklyn Paper
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She’s taking country back to its roots.

This weekend’s Brooklyn Americana Music Festival will celebrate the sounds of folk, country, and early blues for a hootenanny good time. And when one self-described “Black Americana” artist plays the festival’s opening night on Sept. 23, she hopes to re-introduce country fans — who are predominantly white — to the music’s origin among black artists like herself.

“I don’t know what people are thinking of when they see me, but I’m true to myself and I’m singing songs that are reflective of who I am and where I’m from,” said Queen Esther. “I want them to understand that I’m not an anomaly — and while that requires a larger history lesson than I’m capable of doing in a song, I want people to be moved and get inspired to keep listening.”

In the early 20th century, said Esther, the elements that became country, rock, and blues were all mixed up together, and black and white musicians played the same type of tunes.

“Once upon a time when there was no music industry — down South, there were socials, picnics, church, juke joints, and everyone played in everyone’s band,” said Esther. “There is a certain twang inherent in black music.”

But music industry commercialization divorced the styles of music, and black music lost much of its “twang” during the Great Migration, when many African-Americans moved to northern states, said Esther — but she retained that original sound from growing up in Georgia.

“I think me being from the South, with a lot of twang in my background — I do traditional things in country,” said Esther. “I held on to that twang and I never let go.”

Esther will debut some new songs on the festival’s opening night, as well as tunes from her latest album “On the Other Side.” And she is looking forward to hearing new bands as much as playing herself.

“It’ll be great to hear every artist and hear them live,” said Esther. “As a musician you get no chance to hear new artists. Which is why I’m thrilled to be running around this festival.”

Brooklyn Americana Music Festival, Sept. 23–25 at various locations and times,

Jalopy Theatre [315 Columbia St. between Woodhull Street and Hamilton Avenue in Red Hook, (718) 395–3214,]. Sept. 23 at 8 pm. $30.

Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 6 [Atlantic Avenue at Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights,]. Sept. 24, 2–8 pm. Free.

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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