I’ve had the opportunity to catch Sharon Jones twice in concert — at Skipper’s Smokehouse in Tampa, and last year at Jazz Fest in New Orleans — and both times she blew down the doors.
Below is my review of her latest CD, published recently in Las Vegas City Life.
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
I Learned the Hard Way (Daptone)
Twiddling the knobs on an AM radio time machine — who needs a hot tub? — can lead to all kinds of feel-good aural trips. Case in point: The vintage R&B — warm, sassy, injected with horns and recorded old-school on an Ampex eight-track machine — of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.
Live, the diminutive Jones is a powerhouse singer, belting out songs about good love and bad love, and riding hard on the grooves of an oversized group that’s equally sincere about its faith in the joys of old-school soul and blues.
The Brooklyn band’s fourth album has Jones fully realizing her apparent ambitions to recreate the Stax/Volt and Motown sounds of the ’60s. Philly soul, complete with French horn-topped orchestral swells, flavors opener “The Game Gets Old,” which posits love as a battlefield, while the singer wallows in the pain of infidelity on the dramatic title track.
With its rubbery groove, slinky guitar and bubbly horn interjections, “Better Things” could be the coming hot season’s perfect kiss-off anthem. Jones offers a lovably kitschy spoken introduction on “Window Shopping,” about a beau with a wandering eye, and, on closer “Mama Don’t Like My Man,” puts her pleading and ooh-oohing background vocals over uncluttered guitars and handclaps.