Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Dap-Dippin’ With…

When it comes to hearing new music nowadays, that is, music I’ve never heard before, it’s pretty darn easy to do so. For one, there isn’t a lot of music, in the grand scheme of things, that I’ve actually heard. I’m notorious for missing out on the kinds of sounds that a lot of people in my age group grew up with, and even now I listen to new music rather frequently, but I’m still not that hip to the trends, mostly because the type of new music I listen to is stuff like Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, which I just picked up the other day:

Dap-dippin has NOTHING to do with chewing tobacco, though it totally should. But, you may well ask, this album looks old as hell, why is it listed as being from 2002? Surely that’s some kind of reissue?

Ah ha, gentle fictional reader, it’s all a clever ruse, this album is actually only 7 years old, and yes, it’s the band’s album debut. Crazy stuff, eh? It’s all part of a soul/funk revival that apparently this group is spear-heading that, combined with the advent of acts like Amy Winehouse, could possibly be responsible for that whole new “British Invasion” people have been roaring about in the press lately. In fact, the Dap-Kings were, for the most part, Amy Winehouse’s backup band for her Back To Black album, and the group is surely not English.

What they are is a really amazing R&B/Soul/Funk/whatever group that have that oh-so rare knack for mixing the old-school sensibility of the afore-mentioned genres with some modern eclectic flair. With Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, you’ve got a lady who not only can sing amazingly, but also shares that sensibility with the rest of the group about bringing some modern attitude to some of the best music to come out of that hazy time before I was born.

What I love about this group is that they so thoroughly had me fooled, and if I hadn’t read that they were a recent group, I would have thought I’d stumbled upon some of the best apparently unpopular funk and soul I’d ever heard. The other thing I love is that this best funk and soul group I’d ever heard is fronted by a woman old enough to be my mom. Talk about getting a late start in your musical career!

What I love about the sound is the same thing, interestingly enough, that I loved about the instrumentation in Amy Winehouse’s recordings. It’s funky, it’s old-school, but everyone’s contributing a little something modern to the whole thing that makes it seem a little wiser and more knowledgable about the sound from which it was born. It’s a little something like why I like Jarvis Humby so much (remember them?) It’s a throw-back sound, for sure, but there’s enough going here to be relevant today.

My particular favorite songs are the opening (after a spoken live introduction) track, “Got A Thing On My Mind”, “Cut That Line”, and “Got To Be The Way It Is”. Really though, there’s a little something in every song for me, mostly because the rhythm section is amazing. It’s kind of subtle, but the drums and bass are so tight and yet both are doing some interesting things with the beat, and of course there’s a generous portion of singing against nothing but the beat, which is one of my secret weaknesses.

The other instruments are no slouches either, you’ve got guitar that sounds like it came straight from James Brown’s band, and a horn section that, while not as over-the-top as some funk acts like Tower Of Power, are right on top of the sound. The whole thing was recorded analog, which is just about the only true way to get that sound that they’re going for. You can practically hear the static on the record, even if it’s being played in well-ripped .mp3 on a Zune with studio headphones.

Still, at least in this particular recording, the real star of the show is the lady singing the songs. Sharon Jones has an impeccable tone and character to her voice that one should expect from a good soul singer. She’s not a diva-singer by any stretch, nor is she singing with some goofy inflection, she’s just singing, and the singing is good enough to rise over the top of the musical giants that are backing her up. Other ladies working right now could learn a thing or two from her singing on songs like “Make It Good To Me”, that’s for sure, even if her music career has been roughly the same length as Britney Spears. Before that, apparently she was working in an armored car for a bank and as a correctional officer.

So how does a guy like me find out about these kinds of bands? Actually, that’s kind of fibbing, as I’m rather a fan of soul and funk, it just doesn’t show up on this blog as often as I would like it to. However, I utilized a new process for discovering music with this band, and I’ve got some time to waste, so I’ll talk about it. I had seen this CD at work, and on my lunch break, I went across the street to a restaurant that has free wi-fi. I then used a cool feature available on Zunes if you are subscribed to their Marketplace thing, I hopped online and streamed 30 second demos of the music straight to the Zune. Upon hearing all the samples, I went back to work and purchased this CD and the newest disc from the band, 100 Days And 100 Nights, which I’m sure I will be talking about later. That’s what I mean when I say that new music is getting easier and easier to get into. It kind of makes me feel sorry for people who tend to dismiss genres or types of music based on personal bias, when it’s so easy to actually listen to the music and make an opinion based on that. Nevermind that I regularly pan Indie rock on this blog, I have no choice but to listen to that garbage, and there’s some of it I like.

Either way, if you’ve a means to check it out, I recommend Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings to anyone jonesin’ for some good old-fashioned music that doesn’t smell of moth-balls. As Sharon Jones herself says, “Pick It Up, Lay It In The Cut”.


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