Review by Ben Connolly
|It must be hell to be a potential suitor for soul-stress Sharon Jones. First, you’d need balls of steel to go back through her now 4-album catalogue to learn the litany of transgressions those who’d fallen before you had made; then, after what could only be assumed to be a steamy, tumultuous romance, you run the risk of having your love life not only dissected in song-form, but ridiculed and belittled to within an inch of its life.
And so begins Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings’ fourth album Soul Time!, with “Genuine Pt. 1” not only laying down the seriousness of the groove, but also
the seriousness with which the singer views her lovers. “No money, no phone, no fancy car; Is gunna make no man a superstar / If he ain’t a man down to his bones; he’s gunna wake up one day and I’ll be gone” – a line which serves as both a warning shot and a call-to-arms, and continues the emotive tone which has seen Jones and the Kings claim a serious piece of niche musical real estate. Likewise, “He Said I Can” and “I’m Not Gunna Cry” are both scathingly gorgeous moments of end-of-relationship affirmations.
For those not inducted into the Dap way of business, this musical niche is quite a curious evolution. Revolving around the Daptone record label, the sound is a bald-faced reproduction of the then bold, new and exciting sounds of the 1960s soul-funk. Everything in its being goes towards revisiting the movement, even down to the choice of instruments and the building of their own analogue studio to ensure authenticity in reproduction. Jones’ vocals flick between guttural, gravelly growls and sensual cooing and are not a far cry from the evocative highlights of past stars Aretha, Tina and Gladys. Even the album artwork gets the treatment, with garish visual styles and now-archaic fonts used in order to deliberately convey that this is not a reinvention or a re-working: it’s a complete revisit; as if someone had drawn a line under 1979 before the disco revolution caught on, wrapped the scene up in a neat little bundled and plonked it 20 years hence at the beginning of the new millennium. Whilst the The Dap Kings are clearly the spearheads, others have allowed a filling out of the scene, including the barn-storming Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears, The Poets of Rhythm and even Melbourne’s own The Bamboos.
It’s curious that such a movement has garnered such wide-spread attention and respect in the past decade. For so long now, the crux of what has been considered “valid” in popular music has been centred around concepts of new-ness, edginess and a sense of pushing boundaries. Some of the worst accusations levelled at bands were that they were too derivative, sounded too much like something from 30 years ago and were just trying to cash in (think of the recent backlash toward Wolfmother, The Vines and Jet, for examples). All of which could be levelled at Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings. Deep down, however, The Dap Kings do satisfy all of the core values – they are deeply creative, abundantly inventive and are, for the moment, pushing the boundaries.
To expect anything ostensibly “new”, then, from this album would be foolish, but that sameness is just what provides the joy here. The second half of Soul Time! continues along their own beaten path, but tears away from the sentimental opening tracks. “What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes” and “Ain’t No Chimneys In The Projects” are charged rallying calls of the urban underclass, whilst “New Shoes” and “Inspiration Information” are both optimistic tomes which round out the emotional rollercoaster launched with “Genuine Pt 1”, and hint at better days which go some way to explaining the rewards on offer for that special man who passes the Jones test. Let’s just hope he slips up, though, and provides fodder for yet another album.
Review by Ben Connolly
Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
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