Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

I've spent quite a few moments dwelling on the fact that my latest promise to update 'soon,' was, in fact, a little more than long ago.  But, dear readers, I am here to remedy the situation.  Better late than never, right?

A fair amount of my time last month was spent jammed up in the car - jammed up, and jammed out, that is. Fortunately for me, I had the Gathering of the Vibes' headliner Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings to keep me company.  Their new album, 'I Learned the Hard Way,' has a classic MoTown feel that I, having not lived through the actual MoTown era, was excited to experience.

There's something about her voice.  It's rich.  It's filled with soul.  It's strong.

I have been listening to this album for about a month, and even at this point I couldn't pinpoint only one favorite song.  I continue to waver between three excellent toe-tappers: "Better Things," "Mama Don't Like My Man," and "Without A Heart."  There's a certain and individual feel to each tune.

"Better Things" has a casual, upbeat, and friendly feeling to it - until you listen to the lyrics.  The feminist in me cheers when Sharon croons about having "better things to do than remember you."

"Mama Don't Like My Man" is a simple yet incredibly catchy doo-wop tune.  The arrangement is comprised of Sharon on vocals with a few backup singers and an electric guitar that plunks out the bass line.  The stripped-down arrangement showcases some really beautiful harmonies and vocal techniques in this one that, being a vocalist myself, I can appreciate.  Sometimes I get chills listening to the stuff.

Sharon begins "Money" with an amusing rhetoric about money (and lack thereof) in modern society while guitars are strummed, saxophones are played, and keys are tickled.  Picture this:  The first word sung is, appropriately, the word 'money'.  And when I say sung, I mean more, belted... with backup vocalists yelling the same word at the same time.  It sounds weird, but it creates an effect that fits in nicely with the mood of the song.  She laments: "I'm hungry and I'm tired but my money's all spent."  Horns pop in, out, and around her vocal phrasing tastefully.  It's quite a scene.

Considering my only previous experience with MoTown is the fact that I have seen Dreamgirls and heard the Jackson 5,  I am not overly familiar with genre.  With that said, I have to admit: this album is user-friendly.  It seems to span a few different subdivisions of the genre.  None of the songs sound too much like each other, which I find impressive.

So without further ado, I give 'I Learned the Hard Way' my official seal of approval.  I can't wait to see them at the Vibes this summer!

peace, love, and sunny beaches.


  1. Great review! I don't know this artist but will definitely check out this cd. Thanks for the heads up!

  2. I've seen Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings twice; including once at the Apollo Theater in NYC. I I have all their records. She is the greatest performer I've ever seen. Do not miss them live if you get a chance.

  3. The Gathering of the Vibes will be my first chance to see Sharon Jones and I plan to be right up front and center for her performance. Thanks for the review of her new CD. Any thoughts on her earlier ones?

  4. 11:52am - I have been dying to see her perform live! I plan on catching her at the Gathering of the Vibes this summer in Bridgeport, CT!

    12:32pm - unfortunately not; I'll be joining you as a first-timer with Sharon Jones at the Vibes this summer. Maybe I'll see you there!