[caption id="attachment_371" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Live On The Green, Nashville, TN 10.01.09"][/caption] I first heard Sharon Jones on an Amazon Sampler from New York's Daptone Records which I came across accidentally. If you are in the mood for bad grooves and hot soul music, download it here. What struck me about the song "100 Days, 100 Nights" was how close it sounded to Amy Winehouse that I almost wrote it off. I later discovered that the Dap Kings played on Winehouse's album and had been playing with Jones since 2002. In comparison, I'd say that Winehouse leans more Motown and Sharon to Stax. Plus, among other things, Amy has got no funk. When I heard that Jones was putting on a free concert on the green in downtown Nashville I decided to go check it out; and so did everybody else (it was packed)!
The band took the stage and first layed down two instrumentals. Both were very short musical ideas with oddball endings that seemed to be thrown at you rather hastily. I was originally wondering if Sharon would get in the way and that I'd wish that they'd stick to instrumentals, but when she took the stage it was clear that they were at their best supporting her. Sharon, worked the stage all night. She pulled people up and sang to them, demonstrated various dance moves and most importantly sang her ass off. My favorite song was their encore, "Answer Me", the slow gospel groove really won me over. What impressed me most was how it was not about vocal theatrics or reliant on extended band solos. This was what great music truly is; a communal effort. I'd compare her voice to Mavis Staples, sweet and gritty. And all you need is the essence of the melody sung with sincerity.
Somewhere along the line R&B was stolen by divas trying to outdo Aretha Franklin. Just because a singer has a range doesn't give them the right to ruin a potentially great song in the form of outlandish vocal runs and jumps. That's exactly why Steve Vai will only be listened to by budding teenage guitarists in their bedrooms and why people want to kill themselves every time singers take artistic license with our national anthem at sports games. These parlor tricks take away from the very thing that gives them life; music as a living breathing organism. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings get this.
What I find the coolest about the Dap Kings is that they are a modern interpretation of the MG's with the Memphis horns; serving as the house band at Daptone. Every band member seemed to be truly enjoying doing their part. Their bassist, apart from having one bad ass mustache, gave all the cues while keeping a keen eye on Sharon's actions. One guitarist dealt mainly with counterpoint guitar riffs while the other hit deliciously chanky chords out of his hollow body guitar. The horn players never stopped moving in unison the whole show while adding quirky three part horn lines into the mix. The drummer and percussionist never stepped on each others toes and I have never seen a man play the tambourine with so much enthusiasm. All I can say is go check these guys out and support real musicians who are truly passionate about music. I myself will be buying their record, 100 Days, 100 Nights. Interestingly, this all stemmed from a free download.