As it gets harder and harder to decipher new bands from authentic oldies, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings continue to reign over the world of retro. Rather than singing the praises of analog, or overdoing the five-part harmonies, this Brooklyn-based 10-piece is churning out ‘60s and ‘70s-style soul with a silent but unabashed nod to Motown greats like Gladys Knight & the Pips and the Supremes.
At the center of it all, Jones commands attention with her powerful chops and howling deliveries. Numbers like “Money” find the pint-sized frontwoman channeling her inner Janis Joplin, wailing through high note after high note with the passion and zeal of a woman possessed by music. Behind her, the Dap Kings provide one of the tightest knit backing bands a singer could ask for. They’re capable of pulling off an impassioned sax solo (“The Reason”), delivering a jaunty start-stop drumline (“Without a Heart”), and making their guitars talk along with, rather than play behind, their leading lady (“Window Shopping”).
By many standards, Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings are considered to be at the head of the soul revival class. In addition to laying claim to some of the strongest individual musicians in the game, they’re penning and delivering songs with a caring eye towards authenticity. On the album closing, “Mama Don’t Like My Man,” Jones leads a small choir of backup singers through harmonies that rival some of the original girl groups. It’s evident that the Dap Kings love the music they’re paying tribute to, and their devoted sense of fandom seems to come across in every sweet, sultry note.