Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings ‘Soul Of A Woman’ (Daptone) 5/5

No mere left-overs recording, this is a fitting finale to a tragically all too short career by a vastly talented singer who had found her niche and is in storming form on this beautifully varied and wonderfully executed release, produced by Bosco Mann. Jones made her name singing in a gritty 1960’s soul vein with doses of funk, but she is in fact a far more rounded singer, capable of effortlessly fusing blues, funk and soul, and this is reflected on this last studio album. As on opener, ‘Matter Of Time’, creates a late 1960’s feel with warm Hammond organ and James Brown-inspired drum beats. However, the rhythm guitar hints also at the 1970’s Hi sound that accompanied Al Green and Sharon Jones manages to successfully span three separate decades of soul music and still make it sound her own, which is a considerable feat. A lovely composition by band member Binky Gruptite, and, in general, the original writing on this releases is truly inspired, possibly in the knowledge that Sharon Jones has little time to live and to make the most of this experience.

A real stunner of a song and the favourite for this writer is the mid-tempo groove of ‘Searching For A New Day’, and the achingly soulful delivery is matched by the female harmony background vocals and a trumpet solo. Jones enters into deep soul territory on the ballad, ‘Pass Me By’, that has real depth and once again impeccable accompaniment. On one song, ‘Just Give Me Your Time’, the echoey sound generated by the vocals hints, perhaps, at a small indie label, and this intimate sound, reinforced by the guitar, provides a lovely contrast with the big horns. To round off matters, some songs have a gentle Latin undercurrent with a 1950’s R & B back beat. This is the case firstly on ‘Sail On’ (not the Commodores epic), with catchy horn riffs and call and response background vocals. Mid-tempo Latin soul flavours are heard equally on ‘Come And Be A Winner’, which shows a more sensitive side to Jones’ approach that has hitherto not figured as prominently on previous albums.

This may weigh in at just thirty-five minutes, but every second counts here and it is music that is aimed straight at the heart, expertly crafted with tight arrangements, and Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings have parted company with the strongest album of their entire career. RIP, Sharon.

Tim Stenhouse