Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
’d like to think Sharon Jones and company would smack the impurities clean out your triflin’ jaw if you ever found the audacity to speak of her as “neo-soul.” She deserves no such pigeonholing. This is soul music without contamination. To hell with granola.
Together with her cronies the Dap-Kings, Ms. Jones functions as the finest forty-something, Georgia-born soul revivalist you’ve ever heard. The ten recordings that make up Naturally are as bright and friendly as jambalaya and iced tea. Perhaps the affable spirit of this particular brand of music is what makes it so easy to gulp down, even amongst us untried in the genre. The best soul music is made to sound good even to stubborn, non-eclectic types with no thorough initiation.
It compels me to question why garage rock, faux-electro, and italo-disco have so seamlessly gotten the resurgence seal-of-approval from all you hipster muck out there, whilst Sharon and those like her have yet to see their day of glory. Folks, the closest we’ve gotten to a true soul revival as of late has been Brandy by way of Kanye. I’m afraid I have a problem with this. And if it goes uncorrected, I’ll show up at your doorstep with a beehive and a hand full of mood rings…shirtless.
Luckily, I can assume the Dap-Kings are on their way to preventing such an obscene incident. They’ve got this soul mess on lock. Credit here is due in large part to producer/arranger/songwriter/instrumentalist Bosco Mann. Jones does a fantastic job of channeling Mann’s labor. The band itself is complete with tight-to-death horns, vibes, geetar and, of course, a heart-melting backing chorus.
The songs on Naturally seem too antique and authentic to be originals. Upon first listen, I took for granted that it was a cover album. It was troublesome enough to digest these songs as new recordings. But distinguishing them as new songs altogether? This simply never even crossed my mind. (The only cover here is Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” and well, as you could probably muster, it sounds nothing like the original.)
Don’t get the idea that soul balladeering is all these folks are capable of. Naturally offers up healthy doses of deep funk. “Stranded in Your Love” features a smart breakup/makeup narrative dialogue between Sharon and likeminded funk/soul restorer Lee Fields. “You’re Gonna Get It” further exemplifies lovemakin’ balladry, while up-tempo funk comes into play with “My Man Is a Mean Man” and “Your Thing Is a Drag.”
I find it somewhat intriguing that mentions of the word “soul” are capitalized in the liner notes of this record, as they are on the Daptone website. Perhaps the imprint has the idea of this music being holy. Upon hearing Naturally, one might say it is. Or that it’s at least as good as Christmas.
Reviewed by: Will Simmons
Reviewed on: 2005-03-02