Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings new album I Learned the Hard Way, out April 6th on Daptone Records, is the latest chapter in the soul saga of Sharon Jones. Less funky, more soulful, this album is slower and deeper. Less of a dance party and more of a soul-session, Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings have more to say this time around. In the same way 100 Days, 100 Nights, their third album, represent a progression and maturation from their first two releases, I Learned the Hard Way is the next step in their evolution.
The French horns in the opening few bars of the album are a sign of what’s to come: down-tempo, soulful songs that tell a story and convey emotion. Woeful ballads like Window Shopping and The Game Gets Old reflect the mature, well-traveled identity of the band. The intricate horn arrangements on instrumental tracks like The Reason tell a little story all their own.
Better Things, my favorite song on the album, is a more upbeat display of maturity, but it still expresses an urgent dissatisfaction. The band is getting older and has already proved they can play infectiously funky music. Now they’re putting out music that’s honest, music that conveys their weathered emotions.
Mama Don’t Like My Man is a hand-clapping, raw soul song that speaks to the authentic down-home style at the core of who Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings are. Simply a guitar, bass, some hand-claps, foot-stomps, and harmonized vocals combine to create as true and soulful a song you’re likely to hear.
Honestly, I was a little surprised when I heard this album for the first time. I was expecting some raw funk, authentic dance music. This album isn’t that. It’s more than that. It’s raw, authentic soul music that tells a story. Put on one of their earlier albums if you want to have a dance party.