opinion byRAJ DAYAL
Force-of-nature soul singer Sharon Jones and the Daptone Records backing band, the Dap-Kings, had to delay their new album, Give the People What They Want, for several months when Jones was diagnosed with cancer. After successful surgery and recovery, the album and tour is now moving ahead.
To say that SJDK are soul revivalists is not accurate. Clearly, based on the genuine warmth and propulsive energy of Daptone Records, soul and funk never left. On their sixth studio album, the band embodies the hallmarks of American music from Motown to Stax; however, producer and bandleader Gabriel Roth (Bosco Mann) makes sure that the music is not a simulation of the past, but rather a celebration and continuation of a timeless tradition.
While the Motown influence is particularly strong on “Stranger to My Happiness,” it’s Jones’ defiant, yet mournful voice that takes center stage. The ageless track could’ve been recorded 40 years ago—and that’s part of the point. Bosco Mann takes careful precision to make sure that everything sounds exactly as intended. The Daptone sound is as recognizable as any in today’s music.
Most of the songs on Give the People What They Want clock in at a brisk three minutes, and album standout, “Now I See,” is no exception. The song is introduced with Memphis-style horns and a wickedly sly blues-based riff that slowly snakes along just long enough for Jones’ bruised lyrics to convert the track from lamentation to personal transformation. When Jones sings, “Now I see what you want to be / You Want to Take it All Away From Me,” her realization is buoyed by the band’s driving rhythm. She continues, “Once a friend, now an enemy,” in an act of declaration.
The songs on the album, like most of the band’s output, are laced with joyous triumphs and melancholy heartbreak—the foundation of soul music. On “Get Up and Get Out,” Jones floats above a gorgeous melody as the band exudes incongruous warmth. It’s part of the charm of the album and SJDK in general: The sweet mixed with the sour. As Jones proclaims, “No one can know that you are here / For you I shed so many tears,” she’s in the in-between that make up so many classic soul songs; however, she makes sure to continue, “Get up and get out.”
As always, the triumphant soul diva Jones exudes an intimacy and indisputable swagger seldom found in any genre. This could explain why indie-rock worshipping millennials are among the band’s most fervent fans. For the band, authenticity is always the goal, heartbreak and exaltation just happens to be the result. With their latest album SJDK give the people what they want, even if they didn’t know how much they wanted it. [B+]