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Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - Soul of a Woman (Album Review)

Wednesday, 29 November 2017 Written by Jacob Brookman

We don’t always get the send off we want. Goodbyes might be non-existent, hurried or - worse still - over-long: drawn-out, awkward conversations that don’t know when to end.

Which brings us to ‘Soul of a Woman’, the final album from vocalist Sharon Jones, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 60, and her long-time backing band, the Dap-Kings.

Frequently, the death of an artist means that their final work automatically gains added resonance. On ‘Soul of a Woman’ that resonance is very much deserved.

Jones, who was receiving treatment for cancer during recording, deals with the potentially morbid subject matter with a strength, dignity and poise that is frequently inspiring.

High points include the bombastic shuffler Matter of Time, which pairs an intricate, skipping rhythm with boisterous horns and Jones’ marvellously throwback proselytising: “It’s a matter of time / Before justice will come / Before all walls will be done / Before wrongs will be righted / Before all people will be united.”

Hers is a singing style born in the churches of the American south but honed in the dance halls of New York City. It is rich, erudite and unmistakable.

Elsewhere, time emerges as the album's key theme on Just Give Me Your Time, Searching for New Day and album closer Call on God. The latter song, a predictably churchy waltz, demonstrates the enormously varied and skilful band-leading of Bosco Mann. It’s little wonder that the Dap-Kings have been in high demand of late, supplying horn arrangements for artists as diverse as Kesha and Sturgill Simpson.

‘Soul of a Woman’ could be that long-drawn out farewell, but it isn’t awkward, only compelling. It’s actually like a late night conversation when you’ve already announced you’re going to leave, but things keep being said that keep you captivated. And before you know it, you’ve been talking all night, and the sun is rising.

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