+ Available as a super limited indie shop only red vinyl pressing.
+ 3 CD box set includes new album 'Soul Of A Woman, ' I Learned The Hard Way' & ' Give The People What They Want' encased in an O-card
Though we’ll never again see her electric form shimmy across the stage, Sharon Jones continues to give us her soul and her music. She died nearly a year ago, but only now can we hear her final creation. Soul of a Woman captures a singer and a band at the peak of their power. Cutting one last time to eight-track tape at Daptone’s House of Soul studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn, the band endeavored to create a record that stretches the limits of their soulful sound in all directions, giving us both their rawest and most sophisticated recordings to date. A final statement by one of the most influential rhythm and blues voices of the 21st century.
“The last couple of years, Sharon was battling,” says Dap-Kings bass player Bosco Mann who produced the album. “When she was strongest, that’s when we’d go into the studio— Sharon couldn’t phone it in, so we would only work when she was really feeling it.”
Mann explains that the songs on Soul of a Woman are the result of two different sides of Jones’s singing. Initially, the idea for the album was to focus on more string-driven ballads, possibly leading to a tour incorporating symphonies or string sections. But as the band realized that Sharon might not have a lot of time left, they decided to record some more up-tempo and bluesy material to give her the kind of funky stuff on which she really feasted on stage. The selections on this album balance these elements, presenting a full picture of her range: “Side one is the more raw live side,” says Mann, “while side two is more moody and orchestrated—more of a departure from her carnivorous live persona.”
The raw energy of the band is apparent from the opening tracks, “Matter of Time” (nailed in its first take), and “Sail On!” “The band was really cresting on stage in the months before Sharon passed,” says Mann. “As a show band, I don’t think any band out there could have competed with us at that level. We hit the studio hot off the road and you could feel it in there.” On side two, ballads like “When I Saw Your Face,” “Girl (You Got to Forgive Him),” and “These Tears (No Longer For You)” spotlight Sharon as a songstress, carving more crafted melodies over the Dap-Kings more refined, early Gladys Knight-type of arrangements, lush with strings, piano, and timpani.
After so many years of working together, this final studio album from Jones and the Dap-Kings became their most collaborative effort. “Sharon wanted to hear the story and relate to the song on a personal level,” says Mann. “We were all living together on the road, so if somebody was going through something, she was right there with us. She couldn’t really sing something unless she could really own it and sing it from her heart.” The variety of moods on this record reflects the contributions of so many of the Dap-Kings. On "Come and Be a Winner," penned by guitarist Joey Crispiano, Sharon shifts to a more relaxed approach. “There’s a lot of feeling in her voice on that tune," says Mann, "but it’s more plaintive—after all this time, she could still surprise us with her range.” On the more light-hearted “Rumors,” written by percussionist Fernando Velez and drummer Homer Steinweiss, Jones overdubbed her own harmony vocals; “there’s a lot of raw joy in that one,” says Mann, “it’s very compelling in a simple, playful way.”
Of course, pulling off such diverse material requires musicians who are up to the challenge. Over the course of more than two decades, the Dap-Kings have become synonymous with the sound of old-school soul. They were a central element in Amy Winehouse’s masterwork Back to Black, and have worked with a wide span of artists, from Al Green and Syl Johnson, to Sturgill Simpson and Kesha.
Mann maintains that how the Dap-Kings work is just as important as what they play. The group recorded Soul of a Woman on an eight-track tape machine. “The musicianship and arrangements have to really be on point,” he says. “It’s the responsibility of the band to get the performance right—there’s no undo, no ‘give me another track.’ There’s a different sense of commitment. It means that you’re feeling a moment that was recorded by musicians, rather than a moment that was assembled by producers and mixing engineers, and I think people grasp that emotionally.”
The result is an album that captures a band and a singer at their peak—with, as Mann says, “lots of feeling, blood, sweat, and unfortunately, tears. It’s dripping with that stuff, and you can feel that. Sharon used to say ‘What comes from the heart reaches the heart,’ and I think everybody had that sense of pouring their heart into this record.”
“Every time she took the stage, it always felt like Sharon was leaving it all out there. So maybe it was more intense for the band towards the end, knowing what was coming, but that's the only way she knew how to sing her whole life—like it was her last day on earth.”
1. Matter of Time
2. Sail On!
3. Just Give me Your Time
4. Come and Be a Winner
6. Pass Me By
7. Searching for a New Day
8. These Tears (No Longer for You)
9. When I Saw Your Face
10. Girl! (You Got to Forgive Him)
11. Call on God
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