Music News

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

Sharon Jones is the consummate late bloomer. The 45-year-old New Yorker had long since withdrawn her hopes of a career in the music industry, and it wasn't until a chance encounter with Daptone honcho Gabriel Roth in the mid-'90s that she finally found her way onto wax. Today, with a full funk revival seducing old-school revivalists and hip-hop kids alike, Jones has finally made the perfect record she dreamed of more than 20 years ago.

Dap-Dippin' is one of the heaviest, rawest funk albums you'll ever hear. Conceived as a "live" studio album, Dap-Dippin' sounds like a lost session with a lost James Brown protégé; the unlikely cover of Janet Jackson's "What Have You Done for Me Lately?" is the only clue that dates the album as a now thing. Though the Dap-Kings — the alter ego of phenomenal Brooklyn Afrobeat group Antibalas — lack the authoritative slap of James Brown's classic band, the JB's, how are you going to fault someone for being merely excellent in his pursuit for perfection? Still, the Kings' strings bend just right, their horns wail with an off-kilter defiance and the drummer does an admirable job of approximating the reckless rhythms of original "funky drummer" Clyde Stubblefield. Unlike their fellow new-school funkateer peers bent on breakdowns and drums, the Kings craft great, organic songs.

Jones is magnificent, catching grooves like a seasoned pro. On "Give Me a Chance," she belts against the grain and tames the band's chicken-scratch guitars and walking bass; her mere presence turns songs such as "Pick It Up, Lay It in the Cut" and "The Dap Dip" into deep funk classics of any year. And of course there's the chugging and self-consciously wry "What Have You Done for Me Lately?" wherein Jones schools the younger Jackson on the true meaning of soul.

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Hua Hsu