Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings
deliver yet again with their final album Soul Of A Woman
, marking the one year anniversary of Sharon's death. Her distinct sound resembles that of an early James Brown but with renditions that make her unmistakable. Jones recorded most of the album while battling with cancer, but she never lets on just how much she was enduring. Her lyrics follow a vague structure, so as to allow a more relatable connection from her audience. She maintains her hearty optimism with a certain warmness in most of her songs, whilst a few take a more thoughtful and pensive avenue.
The ambiguity of the songwriting is what gives this album an eerie vibe, it's almost like she's a ghost creating heartbreaking music from the grave. This combined with the soul of the tracks creates an atmosphere of admiration and despair. We can't help but be in awe of her bravery to continue performing and making music whilst undergoing such personal struggles.
The opening track "Matter of Time" has a jazzy energy which Jones enhances with her rolling vocals. The title of the track insinuates the final battle with her illness, "I can't wait too much longer" implies her frustrations of waiting out the rest of her days. She follows this sentiment with the track "Sail On!" another uptempo track with more of a soul tone. The trumpets give this song its power as they lift her vocals and bring another instrument in for competition. It's almost a duet with her voice and the trumpets, creating a hot, feverish atmosphere.
The first, more mellow song on the album is "Just Give Me Your Time" where Jones refocuses on her vocals, with the guitar riff merely a background melody. The lyrics again speak on another level if read in regards to her illness. "I'm just waiting and waiting and waiting for an end to this pain" is an obvious cry for her suffering to come to an end. It's calm and thought out, she's singing in a composed manner, almost matter of fact. This is probably the most heartbreaking realization, she has embodied her fate with a striking level of dignity. This sensible approach is contrasted in the track "These Tears (No Longer For You)" where her despair comes through clear and gut wrenching. The vocals become screams during the chorus, whilst the echoing of the recording creates the ghostly tone. It's emotionally driven, the music is drowned out by her voice which makes it all the more mournful.
"Rumours" is a powerful rendition of any 60's soul classic. The percussion accompanied by the backup vocals and trumpet creates this upbeat dance number. It's old fashioned and textured which makes this track one of the most sassy on the album. With following songs like "Pass Me By" and "Searching For A New Day" utilizing Jones' grainy voice and a more percussion heavy instrumental, the album becomes a stronger ode to her memory than any other. Although the lyrics can be read with ambiguity, it is undeniable the influence her illness had over the album. With songs that focus on goodbyes and new starts it becomes clear that Jones, although struggling with these realizations, has used her music as a means to express her fears. The sincerity in which she sings does not come from a place of mere sadness, but rather from a long winded journey of acceptance.
The closing track of the album "Call On God" is a beautiful speech to anyone who is experiencing hardship. She sings with such a sense of purpose, as if she is leading everyone down a path of resolution. The use of the organ in this track enhances this religious aspect, along with the choir like backup vocals. It becomes an entire ensemble of soulful appreciation, a perfect summary for the album, and of her legacy.
Sharon Jones, despite her suffering, managed to create an album of deep introspection. Soul Of A Woman
takes us on Jones' personal journey through loss and finally peace in some of the most heartfelt soul music of the decade. It is an ode to one of the greats.