By: Sarah Moore
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are living legends, not to use the term loosely. Their retro sound makes it hard to believe they are contemporary musicians, and their latest album is no exception. No one can capture that effortless vintage ambience quite like Jones and the Dap-Kings. 100 Days, 100 Nights, their third full-length release on self-owned label Daptone Records, is easily their best yet. This band just keeps getting better with age.
Augusta, Georgia-born (just like James Brown) Jones owns a rich, smooth, and defiant stage presence, but she does not exactly steal the show from her Dap-Kings. The horn section, featuring Neal Sugarman (Sugarman Three) crows, the bass, courtesy of Bosco Mann a.k.a. Gabriel Roth, swaggers, and the guitars of Binky Griptite and Tommy "TNT" Brenneck (founder of Dunham Records) croon. But the orchestration only begins there. Deep soul, rock steady and loose funk outline many of the original songs, mostly penned by Daptone Records co-owner and 100 Days producer Mann with some help from drummer Homer "Funky-Foot" Steinweiss. Every song has a "deep funk" finish, and instruments include clavinet, piano and vibraphone.
The title track begins the disc with minimal descending horn scales before Ian Hendrickson's baritone saxophone puts its heavy foot down for even deeper funk. Jones sounds like the lovechild of Aretha Franklin and James Brown with her confident swagger and emphasized phraseology. The composition slows to a half-time rendition of the chorus before speeding back up, throwing organ tones from Earl Maxton a.k.a. Victor Axelrod into the mix.
The songs on 100 Days are instant classics that might as well have been written in 1969 and performed at the Apollo Theater, where the CD release show happened. Their brief (three minutes and under) duration keeps the freshness lasting and don't exhaust the listener. For instance, "Tell Me," featuring an intro recalling the Supremes' "You Keep Me Hangin' On," lasts two minutes and forty-five seconds, or just long enough. Written by Daptone Records co-owner Sugarman and Miss Jones herself, the selection contains an effusive bounce and responding choir.
"When the Other Foot Drops, Uncle" brings hepcat culture back in earnest. "Uncle" is the new "son," lingo-wise, according to throwback slang linguists and hipsters everywhere. The meeting of yesteryear with the present solidifies the Dap-Kings relevance to today. The lines, instrumentation and subject matter speak to the core of the listener as much as they appeal to their hip-factor and emotions. That being said, "Humble Me" is the most breathtaking number on the album. The theme resonates with most people and the delivery is particularly on-point. Jones' comfort in her own skin and voice can be felt as she sings, "Don't let me forget who I am." Finally, cover song "Answer Me" by gospel hero James Bignon brings a little bit of begging soul to the fray, and its impact is truly spiritual. Jones plays piano on this tune, rounding out her vast efforts on this album. The disc ends on a powerful note, with the last track proving that listening to Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings is a religious experience.
JamBase | Soulsville
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