First Listen: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, ‘Soul Of A Woman’

Enlarge this image toggle caption Courtesy of the artist Courtesy of the artist

Audio for First Listens is no longer available after the album is released.

For more than a decade, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings have carried a torch for classic soul and R&B, with a sound that recalls labels like Atlantic and Stax and voices like Aretha and Etta, Otis and Wilson. With a string of powerhouse records and thrilling live performances, the WWNBB collective — which squats beneath the umbrella of modern-soul cult label Daptone Records — has earned its place in the lineage of authentic soul music.

Soul Of A Woman, due November 17, is not only the band’s latest album, but its first since Jones’ death aged 60 in November 2016. Not only does it feel like a crucial link from soul’s cherished past to the present day, but it’s also a reminder of Jones’ fiery, passionate brand of R&B.

Elizabeth “Binky” Griptite, the band’s guitarist and musical director, told me that he realized recently, in reflecting on Soul Of A Woman, that “the idea of the album” was based around Jones and her beloved childhood choir. “We wrote it, and we arranged it to reflect Sharon’s life — I really think this is a reflection on Sharon’s life, musically,” he said.

Referencing songs like the bump-and-grind “Come and Be a Winner” and the countrified “Pass Me By,” Griptite said, “I can really hear her personality in these things. I can hear her expressing what she would be expressing, and what she would be going through, if she was putting together her own album.”

Griptite is also proud of how the album sections off into its own distinct chapters: “There’s some funk, there’s something that’s kind of gospel, and even a waltz — there’s just a lot of different elements. That’s part of the power: it’s a musical reflection of who she was, and her life.”

This is what a classic soul record should sound like. Jones’ voice is right up front in the mix, and there’s no shortage of passionate conviction in her delivery. Her powerful performances will filter through the speakers of souls yet to come, blending her voice with so many others for future generations. Because that’s what soul is, and that’s what it will always be: a bridge between the living and the dead.