Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, "I Learned the Hard Way" (Daptone Records)
Sharon Jones has been through some serious relationship drama, if her latest disc, "I Learned the Hard Way," is any indication.
The album takes us through the various phases of a love-gone-wrong: On "Mama Don't Like My Man," she's trying to convince her mother that her guy is a good one; then there's the track "Give It Back," where Jones demands a commitment. On "Window Shopping," she seems resigned, singing lyrics like: "I know the question isn't if you love me, but I know the answer is you'll never settle down."
But she seems to wise up on the exceptional "Better Things," where she finally frees herself from negativity, simply saying, "I've got better things to do."
It's not just what Jones is singing about that keeps the listener engaged — it's Jones' heavy, soulful voice and no-nonsense attitude. And she's perfectly complemented by the Dap-Kings. The eight-piece band brings the raw emotion of her voice to the next level. They especially shine on the instrumental anthem "The Reason."
Keeping it old school, Jones and the guys recorded the new disc, their fourth overall, on an eight-track tape machine. That method was also used when the Dap-Kings worked on Daniel Merriweather's top-notch debut "Love & War," and Amy Winehouse's breakthrough album, "Back to Black," which helped the troubled singer snag five Grammy Awards. "I Learned the Hard Way" deserves a Grammy, too.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: There probably isn't a song out right now that compares to "Better Things." The jam is smooth and rich, thanks to the diva's powerful range.