Regular readers of SJF will know that it’s been a tough twelve months for Sharon Jones. After paying considerable dues her career was on a high. A quintet of progressively excellent albums had won her a large and growing fan base. Publically and critically acclaimed, her electric live shows were always the hottest ticket in town and the whole soul world was excited when last year we were told that a new album was on its way. Then disaster. 57 year old Sharon was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and everything was put on hold. Brooklyn, though, breeds tough babes and Ms J hadn’t faced and beaten poverty, racism and record company rejection for nothing. With the positive help of family, friends and her wide musical circle the ex-prison guard fought her illness head on and won. Now well on the road to recovery, her career’s back on track. Tours are being planned and that promised album is now out there on the racks and if anyone needed proof that Sharon Jones is the new “Queen of Soul”, ‘Give The People What They Want’ is all they’ll need.
It’s evident from the kick off with the relentless, tough ‘Retreat’. The cut takes no prisoners and there’s plenty more of Sharon’s special rough-hewn, rustic mix of soul and funk. Try ‘Stranger To My Happiness’, ‘You’ll Be Lonely’ or ‘Long Time, Wrong Time’ to understand. The Daptone crew know though that variety keeps things fresh and there are lots here that offer slightly different soul flavours. Like lots of classic southern soul ‘Get Up And Get Out’ has a country twang about it while ‘People Don’t Get What They Deserve’ is as authentic a piece of Northern soul that you’d could ever get. ‘Stranger To My Happiness’ is less frantic but it’s a great old school roller.
My sedate preferences mean I keep going back to a quiet lovely little tune called ‘Making Up And Breaking Up’. Pitched between the sound of two great “Soul Barbaras’ (Lewis and Mason) it’s both quite renewed my confidence in modern soul and made me realise (again) why I ever got caught up in the crazy world of soul in the first place. Mind you I could say the same thing about the set’s big ballad – ‘Slow Down Love’.
Throughout the 10 tracker (just the right number of tracks, don’t you think?) the Dap-Kings are on great form … as tight and dependable as ever. Backing singers – Saundra Williams, Starr Duncan and Sheron Lafaye … “The Dapettes” , are more prominent than on Sharon’s other albums and what a difference they make to the overall sound. Together with Sharon and the whole technical team at the analogue facility that is Daptone’s Brooklyn “House of Soul”, they’ve crafted a soulful real deal… and we don’t get too many of them these days.