Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

Some years ago Memphis opened shop in Brooklyn NY as Daptone records. The label grew out of the Desco label, a short lived collaboration between Philip Lehman and Gabriel Roth. When they fell out Roth continued the work Desco started at Daptone. Desco (and later Daptone) was dedicated to bringing you that authentic Funk & Soul sound from the sixties. Their first releases came so close to that sound that collectors were tricked into believing that the mock sound track, "The Revenge Of Mr Mopoji" was actually a long lost Blaxploitation gem from the seventies. The confusion was fueled by the omission of recording dates and studio information on the records when they were originally released. This was done deliberately as Desco successfully tried to get the collectors interested for the label. Ironically with Desco's demise those first records would eventually become just as collectible a the genuine product from that era.

Daptone went on to operate as a genuine Soul studio complete with a house band, the Dap-Kings. As a band they were so successful in recreating the sounds of the late sixties and early seventies that I even hesitate to call them a retro act. The Dap-Kings weren't inspired by music from that era, they were an exact carbon copy. Some of the hooks on the records Daptone issued came awful close to familiar grooves from the JB's or Booker T & the MGs. With that authentic Soul sound Daptone placed itself so far from the mainstream market that it hardly got any sales in their first few years. The artists on the roster, most notably Daptone flagship Sharon Jones, survived by the live reputation they soon gained as a live act. Because of the Punk sensibility Daptone had in their way of doing business, the label gained a strong following in the Punk and Garage scenes. Daptone was very much a do it yourself record label, printing on a small scale, barely scraping by. A way of operating the Punk/Garage scene with their numerous little labels could relate to. Daptone also shared that borderline false nostalgic need to recreate the sounds of the sixties and the seventies with the Garage scene. Daptones obsession with making genuine JB Funk parallels the way obscure acts like the Swinging Medallions are treated as the holy grail in the Garage scene. By releasing the anti-Iraq war statement "What If We all Stopped Paying Taxes", performed by Sharon Jones, Daptone tapped into the political sensibilities of the Punk & Garage scene as well.

2003 marked a transition for Daptone as they opened their very own Daptone Recording Studio. Recording completely in style, analog on a sixteen track, Daptone & the Dap-Kings started to get noticed. Artists looking for the more genuine raw Soul sound that the Nu-Soul movement failed to provide turned to the Brooklyn based studio. Most notably Amy Winehouse (was their ever a R&R drunk more aptly named) who used the band on her 2006 smash "Back to Black". The most redeeming quality of her hit single "Rehab", that Motownesque sound that shot the record straight to the top, is courtesy of the Dap-Kings. Unfortunately wino Winehouse went running with all the credit in most of the press. The Dap-Kings went largely unnoticed in the crowd. But it solidified their reputation as a classic house band and once again proved you need an actual band to get that Soulful sound to your records.

Daptone uses what little push they got from those wino sessions to get some extra spotlight for Sharon Jones' new record, "100 Days, 100 Nights". Sharon Jones' latest outing knocks wino Winehouse's record straight out of the ring. Sharon Jones is the genuine product. Born and raised in James Brown's home Augusta Georgia, whipped into shape for the trade in church, Sharon Jones is the true grits and gravy. Had she been around in the sixties she would've been mean competition to Aretha Franklin and Irma Thomas. Live she preaches up a storm, leaving you sweaty and exhilarated, not sure what you've just witnessed. On wax she's the real deal. Even though her sound redefines retro, Jones steers clear of being a nostalgia act. She simply sounds to raw and gritty to become just that. Behind her the Dap-Kings strut like the Meters, they dog like Rufus Thomas, hip hug like Booker T & the MGs and give you more like the JBs. But, unlike earlier releases on Daptone and Desco, "100 Days and 100 Night" never becomes to familiar. It almost sounds like the Dap-Kings have learned from their wino Whinehouse collaboration how to bring that nitty gritty Soul sound into the new century. We can only hope Sharon Jones hits big enough for Daptone to grow out in a new little label that could......

"100 Day and 100 Nights"
"Let Them Knock"

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