Monday, December 20, 2010

Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - I Learned the Hard Way (LP, Daptone)

I think I'm going to update this blog roughly once a quarter, because I am incapable of updating with any greater frequency. In my defence, the past few months have been a bit hectic, with me relocating to a new country. Most importantly, I haven't found any reliable record stores here, which I can foresee will be a problem.

2010 has been a bit of a ho-hum year for music, I feel. True, we have a stellar release from The National (High Violet), but anything they put out out has to be good quality. The Soft Pack went mainstream (reviewed them here when they were the Muslims), but I don't like them as much. The 'Best of 2010' lists are full of releases from The Dead Weather (Sea of Cowards), Bob Dylan (another installment in the Bootleg series), Arcade Fire (Suburbs) & Black Keys (Brother), but few stand out as exceptional records.

One album that all the lists missed, however, is I Learned the Hard Way by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. I first heard Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings on the Dark Was the Night compilation (reviewed here), and was blown away. However, thinking they were an obscure 60's soul band, I forgot about them until I found a copy of I Learned the Hard Way in a local record store. What surprised me more was that it wasn't a reissue, but a brand new release.

One can be forgiven for thinking that Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings are not contemporary; they can easily hold their own against any soul acts from back then. The album has a warm, full-rounded sound, probably contributed by the fact that it was recorded on an old Ampex eight-track machine.

The album works simply because of the relationship between the singer and the band. They complement each other perfectly. The horns & strings never overwhelm Jones's spirited delivery, instead providing that perfect accent.

I, for one, hope that Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings don't release an album in 2011. However, I will gladly welcome them in my 'Best of 2012' list.

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