Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
I Learned the Hard Way
Apr 14, 2010 Web Exclusive
First lady of Daptone Records Sharon Jones is back with her fourth album, I Learned the Hard Way, swaggering though 12 tracks of classic R&B like the ass-kicking, name-taking mother figure you've always wanted.
On "Without a Heart" Jones declares, "You'll find yourself all alone without a heart." It quickly becomes clear this isn't so much a line but a mission statement. Jones' heart beats for more than just herself, be it symbolically (ceding the stage to backing band The Dap-Kings during "The Reason"), or thematically (see lyrics to most of her catalog). More than just an externally focused Amy Winehouse, Jones' sentiments feel genuinely road tested. Even when delivering the most divisive of commentaries—including "She Ain't a Child No More," a song about the horrors of child abuse—Jones achieves an attitude, not of bitterness, but of authoritative acceptance. This may be the way things are, but she's not taking it lying down. Showing more sense than most political pundits, Jones opens "Money" with a diatribe about the state of the economy, voice rising to a televangelist squeak as she declares, "Aint nothing evil about money! Because we need that money to pay our bills!" (She's got my vote for 2012.)
The topic of romance gets its fare amount of play. However Jones keeps it fresh, unafraid—be it from life experience or creative license—to dip into the well-explored topic. Sometimes, her man can't stop "Window Shopping." "Give It Back's" refrain asks, "I give you my love, are you gonna give it back?" Meanwhile, the stripped down lament of album closer, "Mama Don't Like My Man" looks at a romance in terms of her indispensable maternal relationship. Take all the knocks you want, sing all the catchy hooks you can, but at the end of the day, it's people who matter—a lesson that Sharon Jones has clearly learned in spades. (www.sharonjonesandthedapkings.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 9/10