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Album review: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, "I Learned the Hard Way"

By Sarah Godfrey

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are back, and everything old is new - again. On the group's latest effort, "I Learned the Hard Way," the singer and Daptone house band show they are still the finest late-'60s/early-'70s soul revivalists in the game, still making original songs fit to stand beside much of the music of that era. And it's still impossible to resist the outfit's instant vintage sound.

(Choosing the '60s over the '70s, after the jump.)

As on the 2007 album, "100 Days, 100 Nights," Jones and Co. are immersed in the '60s, rather than the '70s funk of its earlier projects, including 2001's "Dap-Dippin'." The title track is Motown with a side of Stax: Dark horns enhance Jones's complaints about a no-good lover; the instrumental accompaniment brightens as she moves from mere suspicion to revelation. On the downright peppy "Better Things," Jones's singing voice (part Darlene Love, part Irma Thomas, part her own style) seems to be the perfect tool for serving walking papers.

The group is so entrenched in retro soul that it creates, rather than emulates, '60s sounds, so it's nice when just a hint of the modern world peeks through, as on "Money." Jones provides the sort of chatty intro often heard on old-school soul records, but the topic is the financial woes of today. "Ain't nothin' evil about money because we neeeeed that money to pay the bills, to pay your rent . . . banks foldin' president scratchin' his head, the economy is down," she says, creating a lovely time-warp effect that blends the present-day with back-in-the-day.

Recommended tracks: "Money," "I Learned the Hard Way," "Better Things"

By David Malitz  |  April 6, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings  
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This one felt like more of a grower than the last few, but by the time "Money" the band had hit their stride. They should probably ease up on the backup singers, a nice idea but it felt overused.

Posted by: M__N | April 6, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

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