Before you read this, click play on the song above and close your eyes. Pay close attention to the way the music recorded: the mic placement, reverb, mixing, and acoustic spacing. Listen carefully to the horn section and hear how they meld into one cohesive instrument. Then shift your attention to the vocals, to the way they seem to crackle with electricity one minute, then slink smoothly along the next. Keep an ear out for the sprinklings of organ that give texture to the arrangement. Now tell me what year was this recorded?
Is it a contemporary of Aretha’s Atlantic recordings? No. Nor is it from the same era as the Motown masterpieces or the Booker T & The MG’s recordings on Stax. No folks, this is one of 2007’s overlooked gems, “100 Days, 100 Nights” by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.
Though it sounds like the band’s story should start in about 1965 it actually doesn’t begin until the mid 90s. The band, originally called Soul Providers, formed with the intent of recreating the funk and soul sounds of the 60s and 70s. They sought to bring back the tight horn sections, the soulful vocals, the lyrics of love and loss, the entire sonic blueprint of a bygone era. Originally fronted by Lee Fields, the band quickly realized that the true star was backing vocalist Sharon Jones.
Hailing from James Brown’s hometown of Augusta, GA, Sharon Jones took a long trip to the stage with the Dap-Kings. Like so many soul divas she started singing in the church choir before turning her attention to more secular, and hip-shaking, music. During the 70s and 80s she sang backing vocals on blues, disco, soul, and gospel recordings. When she couldn’t find work as a backing vocalist she became a prison guard on Riker’s Island. And that’s where she was in 1996 when the Soul Providers needed a backup singer.
After a series of disagreements led to the disbandment of the Soul Providers, Jones and most of the members regrouped as Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. They recorded an album, Dap Dippin’ With Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, and setup camp in Barcelona, Spain. From there they toured all over Europe, building a devoted following along the way.
Fast-forward to 2007 and we find the band riding the wave of critical success after the release of 100 Days, 100 Nights, their third album. Not to be outdone by their sensational front-woman, the Dap-Kings got some limelight of their own when they backed Amy Winehouse on more than half of the tracks on her breakthrough hit Back to Black, including the mega-hit “Rehab”.
This band’s whole image, from their sound to their choice of album covers, evokes the past, yet the band is busily plowing into a bright future.
Sharon Jones And The Dap-kings - Humble Me
Stylistically this song sounds a lot like an Otis Redding ballad, and most singers would wilt at the comparison to Redding. But not Jones, who fills the song with soul from beginning to end and completely owns the performance and makes it one of the highlights of the album.
Sharon Jones And The Dap-kings - Xxx
This song is possibly the best example of straight James Brown soul/funk as has been recorded in the last 30 years.
Official Video for “100 Days 100 Nights” (shot with vintage TV cameras bought on eBay for $50)
“Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was In)”