100 Days 100 Nights

Once upon a time, not so terribly long ago, record labels used to have house bands. These musicians were professionals who would be called upon to back up whatever singer the studio was promoting. During this same period of magical music making, record labels signed contracts with singers based on their vocal talents and not on their looks or age. The recording sessions were live and taped to analog and the sound was warm, intimate and immediate. It was during this era that soul music sailed to the top of the charts and rocked the dance floors of America. We call this time period “the 1960s and ‘70s.”

So how is it that Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings have shown up in 2007? Has anyone seen a time machine parked somewhere in Brooklyn? That time machine comes courtesy of Dap Records, a label that strives to revive the essence of ‘60s and ‘70’s soul and funk by using analog technology and period instruments. The Dap Kings, originally known as The Soul Providers, are the label’s house band. They also contributed to Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black and have worked extensively on projects from producer Marc Ronson. Sharon Jones is the singer they discovered during a recording session for an album of James Brown inspired instrumentals. Jones was brought in to sing on one track and the rest, as they say, is history. Jones blew the band away with her rendition of “Switchblade” a track originally written for a man.

Like most overnight sensations Jones has a long history in music. She grew up in James Brown’s hometown of Augusta, Georgia and began singing in church. Jones was in her teens when her family moved to Brooklyn in the early 1970’s. It was at this point that she became a session singer (often uncredited) for gospel, soul, disco and blues singers. Jones left music for awhile to take a job as a corrections officer at Rikers Island Jail.

Jones began singing with The Soul Providers in the mid 1990s and the collaboration blossomed over the next decade. 100 Days 100 Nights is the glorious culmination of Jones’ talent mixing and matching with the enthusiasm and musicianship of The Dap Kings. Sharon Jones is an amazing singer who knows how to channel her various experiences into raw emotion. She wails, she moans; she knows how to nuance and cuddle a note. This is no little girl playing grown-up singer. This is a seasoned woman who doesn’t have to imitate anyone to illustrate pain, frustration, yearning and passion. It takes an adult to put across the messages in “Humble Me” and “When the Other Foot Drops, Uncle.” Jones’ background in Gospel music informs the prodigal daughter approach to “Answer Me." Gabriel Roth, the main composer of the 10 songs on the disc, writes songs that fit both the band and their singer and the atmosphere they aim to create.

While Jones takes care of the vocals the Dap Kings keep the steady Motown infused beat behind her . The air fills with the sounds of horns, and if those guitars don’t make you feel like your holding your transistor to your ear – well you probably never had the experience of listening to this kind of music on A.M. Radio.

But for those of us who remember hearing Al Green, Aretha Franklin, The Chi-Lites, The Stylistics and Luther Ingram on the radio, this disc should rekindle your love of classic soul. And maybe it will help a new generation realize the joy of this music. The next time you hear somebody say “they don’t make music like that anymore,” do them a favor and buy him or her a copy of 100 Days 100 Nights.

WYEP celebrates the very best of 2008 during December by revisiting albums from our top 10 of the year. Pick up your copy of Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings' 100 Days 100 Nights by going to wyep.org/store.

Rosemary Welsch, WYEP Afternoon Mix host