Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings are extremely proficient at their craft. A blind listen of I Learned The Hard Way
would leave many casual listeners believing they were listening to some lost 1970s era soul. Even the recording values are more shag-carpet vintage than clean, crisp CD quality. The whole package is aesthetically accurate, and really plays into the charm of Jones and her band. But the truth is, I Learned The Hard Way
is part of a modern revitalization of classic R&B, which hit the mainstream with the rise of artists like Amy Winehouse. Ironically, the movement was started by Winehouse's backing band, a group of incredibly talented instrumentalists who went relatively unknown during her reign of the charts. That group is known as the Dap Kings, and playing behind Jones, they find a more natural, organic sound (with a significantly diminished drug consumption).
Part of the magic is the voice at its helm. Sharon Jones doesn't take R&B and turn it into cheesy pop, she lays it out flat as nature intended: head bangingly funky and soulful. With a velvety voice akin to the Motown greats, Jones is a perfect figurehead for the Dap Kings. The lyrics could all be modern standards, especially "Mama Don't Like My Man" and "She Aint A Child No More", which take the titular sentiment and riff on it for a quick two and a half minutes. The recordings are short, but it isn't difficult to imagine either 12-bar jam extending for solos and riffs (especially "Child").
The Dap Kings are tight as hell, but that's no surprise. They've been in this game for years, forming the backbone of soul revival label Daptone Records. Their instruments are all from the 1970s or earlier, seriously! But the attention to detail, the strict guidelines and forms, make this an accurate a snapshot as possible, and some of the most fun you can have with a horn and a mic. Even those of us living in a different millenium, even with our fancy auto-tune and everything to distract us, are undeniably obsessed with the past. -joe puglisi
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MP3: "She Aint A Child No More" (I Learned The Hard Way)
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings on Myspace