I Learned The Hard WayAlbum | Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings By Stewart Mason
Brooklyn soul masters change the game in subtle but effective ways.
For their fourth album, Brooklyn soul masters Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings change the game in subtle but effective ways. On 2007's 100 Days, 100 Nights, bandleader and producer Bosco Mann allowed other bandmembers (including Jones herself) to pen a few songs, and the results were closer to a '60s-vintage Stax session than the groove-oriented funk vibe of their earlier albums. I Learned the Hard Way, on which Mann writes only half of the dozen tracks, is even more immediately catchy: the title song is an instant soul classic, sounding for all the world like a lost Norman Whitfield production for the Supremes circa 1967. Most of the album shares that song's downcast vibe; the love songs are wounded ballads along the lines of the distrustful "Give It Back" and the note-perfect girl-group homage "Mama Don't Like My Man," and even the superficially perky "Without A Heart" imagines how much easier life would be sans empathy. Having long since made their reputation as the tightest band in New York, the Dap-Kings play with easygoing restraint throughout, and the period engineering (cut mostly-live on a vintage 8-track console) sounds organically connected to the classic soul vinyl that the Daptone aesthetic venerates.