Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings - 100 Days, 100 Nights (2007)

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
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For better or worse, "retro-soul" is now part of the vernacular. Having reached a feverish apex in the mainstream with Back to Black by Amy Winehouse in 2007, the popularization of ‘60s R&B sensibilities by contemporary acts is, at best, a winning appropriation of the era when Stax and Motown reigned supreme. At worse, it's a lazy imitation of a style that is very unique to a particular time and place. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings' 100 Days, 100 Nights, thankfully, leans more towards the former.

For better or worse, "retro-soul" is now part of the vernacular. Having reached a feverish apex in the mainstream with Back to Black by Amy Winehouse in 2007, the popularization of ‘60s R&B sensibilities by contemporary acts is, at best, a winning appropriation of the era when Stax and Motown reigned supreme. At worse, it's a lazy imitation of a style that is very unique to a particular time and place. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings' 100 Days, 100 Nights, thankfully, leans more towards the former.

The love this Brooklyn-based outfit has for soul music is tangible throughout ten infectious tracks. A descending brass arpeggio opens "100 Days, 100 Nights" before Jones' voice bellows, "100 days, 100 nights/To know a man's heart" over the Dap Kings' simmering Latin soul. One is miraculously transported to a bygone era, when a line like Amy Winehouse's "What kind of f--kery is this?" could only have been suggested and not explicitly sung. (Note: The Dap Kings played on Back to Black in addition to working with the album's co- producer, Mark Ronson, on his Versions album.) Unlike Winehouse, Jones doesn't rely on any "shock" value or fatuous edginess to sustain the listener's attention. Her booming voice is commanding enough to satisfy even the most jaded of soul connoisseurs.

Jones' sassy delivery is tailor-made for the Dap Kings' tight rhythm section. On "When the Other Foot Drops, Uncle," she warns a duplicitous scoundrel, "The lies that you've been spinning up/Are running out of the thread/And your crafty little pencil/Is running out of lead", followed by the raucous vamp, "You better pack up and run." Jones' advice in matters of the heart is also endearingly blunt: "Don't you know a woman/don't want a man down on his knees?/Running her down/like a mouse after cheese."

Amidst a field of imitators, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings authentically carry on the legacy of the soul orchestras that came before them. Anyone who's wandered onto YouTube to browse the numerous clips of the band in performance can attest to their voltaic soul virtuosity. 100 Days, 100 Nights delivers on the promise of that quality and holds together very well as an album, albeit each listener will gravitate towards different tracks. There's more than enough spice in this soul stew to go around!

by Christian John Wikane

 
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