The new record from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings is less than one month away. I Learned It the Hard Way is their first full-length since the record-breaking (but by no means debut) album 100 Days, 100 Nights which catapulted Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings into indie stardom. And their latest proves their musical momentum is just as strong as ever. Due April 6th (Jones' birthday), it's another solid album of songs that sounds decades-old but for some reason feels anything but anachronistic, and is equally fit for a cocktail party as your headphones.
The songs are typical Daptone fare: which means they're superb. Each soul-soaked track mixes major and minor keys to talk rocky relationships so masterfully that you don't know who trumps who: the heartache or the song. Tracks like "I'll Still Be True," "Window-Shopping" ("When you're walkin' down the street and it seems like your man and his eyes just turn every time a woman walk by...like he can't even decide....Gonna get whiplash lookin' so hard."), "Mama Don't Like My Man," and of course the title track---featured below---are just a few of songs that do just that. (You can preview the rest of the album at the Daptone site. )
One thing I loved about the new album is the generous amount background vocals, which supplies a steady supply of shoops to Jones' expressive lead, and steeps the songs that much more in the 1960s. The instrumentation is equally solid, with horns brimming and guitar riffs as expressive as any belted chorus.
Another reason why Daptone albums sound so much richer and retro is that they're recorded that way. I Learned It the Hard Way was recorded on an Ampex eigh-track tape machine in Daptone Studios in Brooklyn, where "mp3" is a four-letter word.
So if you're not reaching for you credit card yet, Daptone has made pre-ordering the new album even more enticing, since 15% of sales go to Doctors Without Borders and you get a free 45'' with an unreleased track.
And if you don't want to wait for the record itself to drop, those of you in Austin next week can catch Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings at several SXSW shows, including the the NPR Showcase and the SPIN magazine day party, and their official I Learned It the Hard Way tour kicks off at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - I Learned It the Hard Way