Sunday, May 09, 2010

No Way But The Hard Way


A few years back I got into Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings so I snapped up their new release I Learned The Hard Way the first day it was available. And I've got to say they did not disappoint. Nobody does retro soul better in my book, they remember all the lost moves to making R&B with real instruments. Tasty grooves, triumphant horns and Sharon Jones' impassioned singing are so immediate that it erases the passage of time. It would be easy to write them off as a one trick pony, but music performed with this much detail, care and inspiration can't be denied.

The only limitation this band has is the one set on themselves: They don't do anything that would not fit in the 60's - early 70s R&B scene. So there isn't any real artistic growth between the new album and their last one, 100 Days 100 Nights. Consistency isn't necessarily a bad thing (see AC/DC for that one) it just means that the only thing left to criticize is song quality.

It took a long time for this album, their prior disc was in 2007. The songs were worth the wait. There's just so much to like here. The smokin' title track with it's dramatic horns giving way to a breezy melody as Jones plays the jilted lover is perfect. And even with the retro sound Jones and crew find a way to be timely by tackling the economy on "Money". Other tracks like "Window Shopping", "Better Things" and "The Game Gets Old" play like lost smash hits from a bygone era.

Like The Black Crowes, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings will probably be viewed with an asterisk for their traditionalist ways. And like that great rock band, that's too bad because they use a style from the past to create heartfelt inspired music in the present. Chalk this up as another great one by this talented crew.
One more quick note, Happy Mother's Day!

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