Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – Soul of a Woman
Sharon Jones was one of the most consistent artists in modern music. Because she first came to our attention as a fully-formed, somewhat world-weary 50-year-old woman, she didn’t need to develop. And, because the style of music she and her band The Dap-Kings specialised in was so deeply indebted to classic soul of the past, there was no great need for the sound to evolve.
That doesn’t mean her records didn’t get better. It’s less celebrated than her first splash-making albums in the 2000s, but 2010’s I Learned The Hard Way showed that Jones and her band were never going to stop refining their winning brand of soul and funk.
This year’s posthumous Soul of a Woman shows the great care that has gone into the music of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings right til the end.
There will be no cooler record released in 2017 than Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings’ Soul of a Woman.
Out of context, it’s just another staggering display of perfect soul and with flourishes of classic pop. Just another devastatingly good record from a singer and a band who have delivered consistently for almost two decades.
‘Sail On!’ is one of the best songs of Jones’ career – a perfect example of how well Jones, her band, and backing singers Saun & Starr work as a unit. Each element enjoying space to shine on its own, while gelling perfectly as a unit.
‘Rumours’ is genius soul-pop, with a chorus that says so much with so few words. ‘Rumours tell me that you’re no good, baby’ Jones sings, adding to the list of gems she’s delivered over time that serve to empower and comfort just as much as they entertain.
‘These Tears (No Longer For You)’ is a work of great, restrained beauty. You can feel the heartbreak through its weeping strings, its maudlin horns and through Jones’ sorrowful, impassioned delivery. If you’re feeling particularly emotional about Jones’ passing, then ‘When I Saw Your Face’ might completely destroy you.
In the context of Jones’ life, context which need not be separated from the music, Soul of a Woman takes on more power. Everything about it remains completely assured; Jones’ voice is as good as ever, even as cancer was devastating her body and the band supports her perfectly – leaving her plenty of space and lifting her voice to new heights.
To a fan, it gives a little closure. It suggests that Sharon Jones was spending the final months of her life completely in control, continuing to perform at her best right up til the end. Whether she really was in control, we may never know. But Soul of a Woman feels assuring, and there’s great power in that.
That Sharon Jones recorded a final album before her passing is the very smallest consolation following her untimely passing. The fact that it’s as stunning a piece as she’s ever delivered is heartening. Knowing that we get to keep it forever is a genuine treat.