Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings’ final studio album, Soul of a Woman, a true testament to the life and career of the Daptones’ late, fearless leader and one of the world’s greatest performers, was released on November 17, 2017, by Daptone Records.
We here at HRAC look forward to spending time with Soul of a Woman in hi-res, as previous SJ&TDK albums have been made available at 96/24 and 88/24.
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 just over a year ago on November 18, 2016, but only now can we hear her final creation. Soul of a Woman captures a singer and a band at the peak of their collective power. Cutting one last time to 8-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.
Watch the music video for the album’s “Matter of Time” (directed by Jeff Broadway & Cory Bailey) here:
Prior to her death from pancreatic cancer in 2016, Sharon Jones was nominated for her first Grammy award for the 2014 release, Give The People What They Want, toured and performed tirelessly, and was the subject of Miss Sharon Jones!, an acclaimed documentary by Oscar-winning director Barbara Kopple. The beloved and heroic soul singer also found time to complete a studio album. Soul of a Woman features 11 songs recorded with her long-time co-conspirators, The Dap-Kings, which reveal that the emotion, dynamics, and drama of Jones’ voice remained at full power until her final days.
“The last couple of years, Sharon was battling,” confirms Dap-Kings bass player Bosco Mann, who also 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 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 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 onstage. The selections on the album balance these elements, presenting a full picture of her range: “Side 1 is the more raw live side,” says Mann, “while Side 2 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, the aforementioned “Matter of Time” (nailed in its first take), and “Sail On!” “The band was really cresting onstage in the months before Sharon passed,” continues 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.”
Over on Side 2, 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,” observes 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 Soul of a Woman reflects the contributions of so many of The Dap-Kings as well. 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,” notes 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 2 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. As noted earlier, the group recorded Soul of a Woman on an 8-track tape machine. “The musicianship and arrangements have to really be on point,” the producer/bassist believes. “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.”
- Matter of Time
- Sail On!
- Just Give Me Your Time
- Come and Be a Winner
- Pass Me By
- Searching for a New Day
- These Tears (No Longer for You)
- When I Saw Your Face
- Girl! (You Got to Forgive Him)
- Call on God
SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS – SOCIALS
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