Not since Aretha has there been a queen of soul that is quite as captivating and powerful as Sharon Jones. Her sassy voice can whip a lyric into a funk frenzy, a bluesy drone or a soulful purr while she rests her hand on an insubordinately jutting hip. Each note is dripping with attitude – this is a woman not to be messed with, fellas.
Along with the eight-piece band she fronts, The Dap Kings, she has released her fourth album, I Learned The Hard Way. To accentuate their vintage soul style, it was recorded on an old Ampex 8-track analogue tape machine. But, rather than a mere nostalgia act attracting greying soulsters intent on an Aretha, Otis or James Brown wannabe group, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are receiving plenty of mainstream attention, and amongst the youngin’s too.
The reason is, their charismatic live performances have garnered a growing reputation and they’ve released a string of great albums. I Learned The Hard Way is no exception. From the opening track, The Game Gets Old, with its dominating but carefully composed, symphonic brass section to the superb instrumental The Reason, everything is blissfully perfect.
Mama Don’t Like My Man is a personal favourite. Its moving, gospel-infused construction is satisfactorily simple, allowing room for the listener’s interpretations. Similarly, If You Call is a slow, blues-soaked ripper of a track. In fact, this may even be their best release to date.
This review was first published in Beat magazine.