Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings - I Learned The Hard Way
Mon 19th Apr, 2010 Music Reviewsin
It’s a tad left-of-centre to be reading a review for this kind of release on ITM. On submitting it to the ITM ‘bot’ for it to be uploaded to the site, I had to choose a category; among house, techno, breaks, drum ‘n bass and hardcore, the closest I could find was ‘chill-out’, which really doesn’t sum up this soul-drenched release at all.
Still reading? Good! ITMers are all the richer for reading about this, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings’ fourth full-length album on Brooklyn’s independent Daptone Records and the follow up to 2007’s critically-acclaimed 100 Days, 100 Nights.
For those familiar with the revered Daptone Records imprint or with Jones and The Dap Kings’ capital ‘S’ soulful rhythms, this new LP will wholeheartedly satisfy. It’s no insult whatsoever to say Jones and her band sound exactly the same as previous releases. Their brilliant ability to transport us back to the good old days of soul is amazing and only seems to get better with each release.
Suffice to say then that, for those who aren’t so familiar with the label or group, this latest album will prove a fitting orientation. It will have you hunting down previous albums – and the label’s back catalogue – in no time. Start thinking Motown and Stax Records, the sounds of Aretha Franklin, James Brown or Tina Turner and you’re getting close.
The title says much about this new album and its direction. Jones is in a contemplative mood, recalling love lost and found (and then lost again), heartache and heartbreak, bad choices and frustrations. Whether she’s talking cash in Money or a man’s wandering eye in Window Shopping, all her lyrics are soundtracked to classic soulful beats and razor sharp production provided by the mighty Dap Kings (the ‘baddest band in the land’), who include Homer Steinweiss (drums), Binky Griptite (guitar), Bugaloo Velez (congas), Dave Guy (trumpet), Tommy ‘TNT’ Brenneck (guitar), Neal Sugarman (tenor) and Ian Hendrickson-Smith (baritone). Some might remember seeing several Dap Kings previously when they played as part of Amy Winehouse’s stage band (especially Binky Griptite).
Bosco Mann (real name Gabriel Roth), meanwhile, is the Daptone label founder and Dap Kings bassist who produced and recorded I Learned The Hard Way on an Ampex eight-track tape machine in Daptone Records’ House of Soul studios. The album’s title track and first single I Learned The Hard Way is a fitting scene-setter: Jones’ ‘moaning soulfulness’ permeates throughout as the Dap Kings lay down their beautiful, tight beats and smooth arrangements. The video is currently doing the rounds as well; directed by Phil De Flore, it stars Charles Bradley, ‘TNT’ Brenneck and fellow funk and soul legend and Daptone Records artist Lee Fields.
As usual with Jones and The Dap Kings releases, horns feature heavily, making this a lively affair. I can’t say much more – this is fantastic stuff that should appeal to young and (especially) old. Jones and the Dap Kings have just wrapped a European tour and are about to embark on an exhaustive north American tour which will see them play a staggering 20 dates throughout May alone.
While there’s no announcement of an Australian tour as yet, you can bet this fair country is on the globetrotting group’s radar. Until that great day though, get your hands on this brilliant new album.
I Learned The Hard Way is out now on Daptone Records through Shock.