Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: I Learned the Hard Way

Artist: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

Title: I Learned the Hard Way
Release date: April 6
Label: Daptone

I was shocked to see that Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings' new record debuted at number 15 on the Billboard 200. I was shocked not because the band isn't worthy of hitting number 15 (it is) but because I didn't think that many people were into straight-up revivalist music.

Jones and her band perform soul music as if this were 1965. It sounds that authentic -- the vocals, the lyrics, the instruments, the production, the arrangements. The details here are the key. No, I take that back.
The retro details are nothing more than a nice touch. What's important here are the songs and the performances, especially that of Sharon Jones, who makes Amy Winehouse sound as authentically as vintage as Miley Cyrus. Jones' powerful voice sells every song on this 12-tune collection. As well-worn as most of the lyrically subject matter is on I Learned the Hard Way -- most of it falls into the my-man-is-no-good category -- it doesn't matter because Jones is so believable in the role of the newly put-upon and fed-up woman who's ready to empower herself.

If you like 1960s soul, just get the record already. Sure, it's not better than the real thing, but it's pretty close.

Best song: "Money." It's not a cover of the Berry Gordy classic, but it's a nice throwback to the days when artists wrote about the green stuff.
Rotation: Heavy
Deja vu: Memphis, Philly, Detroit, New York.
I'd rather listen to: The essential Atlantic Soul: 1959-1975 box set.
Grade: A

"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 40-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.

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