Tag Archives: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

Top 25? Our top 3 records of 2014

There’s never been a year-end music roundup at AM, Then FM because that’s really not how we roll here.

That said, I read Ken Shane’s late-to-the-party roundup of his favorite albums of 2014 over at Popdose, and thought we’d tap into that spirit.

Ken has 25 records on his list, but ours won’t be that long. I bought plenty of records during 2014. Only three of them were new releases.

The first new record I bought in 2014: “Give The People What They Want,” by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

When Daptone Records provided a sneak peek of the new record from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, I took one look at the cover and my record nerd kicked in. Hey, I thought, that design is inspired by an old Chi-Lites record.

chilitesgivemore powerlpsharonjonesdapkings givepeoplewhattheywantlp

Whatever. The record came out at the end of the second week of January, and I picked it up as soon as I could. Two months later, we got to hear most of it at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, a scorcher of a soul revue on a late winter night.

Cool song off the record: “Long Time, Wrong Time,” on which the Dap-Kings walk their vintage soul sound over near the swamp for Miss Jones to chomp on.

The second new record I bought in 2014: “Carter Girl,” by Carlene Carter.

I belong to almost no fan clubs, but I have been a member of Carlene Carter’s fan club for several years. When she started her gradual return to recording and performing in the mid-2000s, it was well below the radar, and the fan club was pretty much the only way to keep tabs on it.

Tipped by the fan club to a limited number of autographed copies of her new record, I managed to get one. Full disclosure, though: I’m not a big autograph guy. I just thought it would be a fun thing to have.

Carlene Carter autographed CD

Well, it sure was fun opening the package when it arrived in April. Carlene Carter has a lovely signature, doesn’t she?

I’ve loved Carlene Carter since her time with Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds in the early ’80s, through her pop-country stardom in the early ’90s and now that she’s re-emerged after some struggles with addiction. On this record, Carter taps into her Carter Family influences and stands right beside them as one of America’s finest country singers.

Cool song off the record: “Lonesome Valley 2003,” an updated version of an A.P. Carter song. She’s always been one of the great duet singers. “Baby Ride Easy” with Dave Edmunds is sublime. Vince Gill is her partner on this one.

The third new record I bought in 2014: “The Lost Tapes,” by Vic Pitts and the Cheaters.

Just in time for my birthday, I was tipped to this record by DJ Prestige over at Flea Market Funk. It hit me right in my wheelhouse: Vintage soul and R&B, and vintage soul and R&B from Wisconsin.

Full disclosure again: I’m not big into limited editions, either. But I managed to order from Secret Stash Records in Minneapolis when the red vinyl copies were still available. I just thought it would be a fun thing to have.

vic pitts record on turntable

Well, it sure was fun seeing that red vinyl light up the turntable in July.

vic pitts cheaters lost tapes lp

Vic Pitts and the Cheaters were among Milwaukee’s hottest soul/R&B bands in the late ’60s and early ’70s. This record gathers a never-released bunch of scorchers, covers, ballads and instrumentals that were recorded in 1969 and 1970 at Ter-Mar Studios in Chicago, by then one of the last remaining pieces of what once was Chess Records.

Cool song off the record: “The Trip,” the one that’s playing in the picture.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time. (And, yes, I know I am long overdue in posting there.)

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Filed under January 2015, Sounds

This land was his land

What a time we have lived in.

That realization comes more often as those of us of a certain age get older. When we were kids in the ’60s, there were four TV channels.

On those four channels, there was a thing called the variety show. You could hear some comedic and dramatic monologues, see some skits and production numbers, and hear Broadway songs, pop standards, pop hits and — after a while, grudgingly, it often seemed — rock music.

Folk music was part of that rich cultural stew, too. That’s where I must have heard Pete Seeger and his songs.

In a lifetime of listening to music, his songs are part of the foundation of everything I know. They’re some of the first songs I ever came to know as a grade-school kid in the ’60s. “This Land Is Your Land” was the most memorable. But I also came to know “If I Had A Hammer,” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone,” “Goodnight Irene,” “Rock Island Line” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

But as I grew up and my tastes changed, folk music just wasn’t my bag. John Prine and Steve Goodman were as close I got to folk. Pete Seeger was, and is, no less great, but I’ve long known more of his songs done as covers than as his originals. I don’t have any Pete Seeger records.

Peter Paul Mary Moving LP

“This Land Is Your Land,” Peter, Paul and Mary, from “Moving,” 1963. Also available digitally.

My dad had this record, so we played it endlessly as kids. This song and “Puff,” one of the saddest songs I know, over and over.


“Rock Island Line,” Johnny Cash, from “Johnny Cash With His Hot and Blue Guitar,” 1957. Also available digitally.

My dad loved trains, so of course we loved this train song. It’s the first cut on Johnny Cash’s debut LP. (I bought this record in the late ’80s, and only recently realized it was his first LP.)

Sharon Jones DK Naturally LP

“This Land Is Your Land,” Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, from “Naturally,” 2005. Also available digitally.

Mavis Staples We'll Never Turn Back CD

“Eyes On The Prize” and “We Shall Not Be Moved,” Mavis Staples, from “We’ll Never Turn Back,” 2007. Also available digitally.

(I used to have “Goodnight Irene” on a Ry Cooder record, but it went out in one of the Great Record Purges.)

All these covers inspired by Pete Seeger, a national treasure whose work is timeless, whose influence endures.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under January 2014, Sounds

Definitely worth the wait

The song is still downloading as I start to write this — a real slow server, apparently (since fixed) — but I know patience will be rewarded.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, one of the most inventive old-school-sounding soul and R&B groups out there, has a new record coming out. We’ve seen them live twice, on a hot summer night in New York’s Battery Park and on a cold winter night at the Barrymore Theater in Madison, Wisconsin. Highly recommended.

This is what the folks at Daptone Records say about “I Learned The Hard Way,” the group’s fourth album and its first since October 2007:

“Produced by Bosco Mann and recorded on an Ampex eight-track tape machine by Gabriel Roth in Daptone Records’ House of Soul studios, this record drips with a warmth and spontaneity rarely found since the golden days of Muscle Shoals and Stax. … From the lush Philly-Soul fanfare that ushers in “The Game Gets Old” at the top of the record, to the stripped down Sam Cooke-style “Mama Don’t Like My Man” at the tail, the Dap-Kings dance seamlessly through both the most crafted and simple arrangements with subtlety and discipline.”

I have no reason to doubt them. But as always, you be the judge.

“I Learned The Hard Way,” Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, from “I Learned The Hard Way,” due out April 6, 2010, on Daptone Records.

Oh, yeah, that download was worth waiting for. Sounds like it comes right outta 1969 or 1970. Reminiscent of Honey Cone, don’t you think?


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Filed under February 2010, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 33

A year ago tonight, we were rather funked up. On a cold Wisconsin night, we saw Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings scorching the stage at the Barrymore Theatre in our old neighborhood in Madison.

The next night, we put three funked-up tunes under the tree. It turned out to be the most popular thing we did in last year’s series. It went like this:

Three years ago, funk legend Bootsy Collins released a Christmas record that clearly bears his stamp, yet one that has surprisingly tender moments. It’s a remarkable re-imagining of some familiar songs, a mash that’ll be familiar to Christmas music fans and to P-Funk fans.

This earnestly spoken sample is the first thing you hear on the record:

“I’m sure there’s going to be more than one unpleasant surprise before we’re done.”

You can just imagine Bootsy standing there, his bass ready to go, with a wide smile on his face as he dives in. That said, why don’t we dive in?

“Merry Christmas Baby” — Definitely not Charles Brown’s version. It’s funked up, as you would imagine. Yeah, that’s Bootsy on the guitars and the Space Bass. The Nasty Natti Horns pump out a big backing track and there’s some fine Hammond organ by Morris Mingo.

“Jingle Belz (AKA Jingle Bells)” — You’ve heard this a million times. You’ve never heard it like this. The spoken lead-in — kids being asked “whattaya want for Christmas?” — and Boot-A-Claus’ laid-back vocals set the tone for this romp, which mashes elements of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and“Joy to the World” in the last minute. Fred Wesley’s trombone is the backbone for the whole thing.

“Silent Night” — Backed by some elegant keyboards, Bootsy shares a warm, real memory of Christmas as a child in the first 1:30. Then it gives way to “Silent Night” as a slow funk jam with some sizzling vocals by Candis Cheatham. The pace picks up between verses, with more spirited jamming. You’ve never heard this like this, either.

All from “Christmas Is 4 Ever,” Bootsy Collins, 2006. (I thought about changing out the songs from last year, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.)

In “Silent Night,” Bootsy remembers growing up in Cincinnati as a boy who loved Christmas, then fell in with “the wrong crowd,” which teased him:

“‘Aw, they ain’t no Santa.’ Then they took it a step further and said ‘Well, how is he gonna get in your house, and you livin’ in the ghetto with no fireplace? What kinda chimney is he gonna come down?’ I said, ‘Hmmmm.’ (Must be comin’ through the window.)”

Sharon Jones grew up in Brooklyn, wondering the same thing. On her charming new Christmas soul single, she asks just how Santa put her toys under the tree when there …

“Ain’t No Chimneys In The Projects,” Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, from the 7-inch single Daptone DAP-1048, 2009. It’s due out Tuesday.

Those of us on Daptone’s mailing list got the tune today as a little gift. Give it a listen, then go get your own.


Filed under December 2009, Sounds

New York, New York

When we went to New York City last week, I hoped to be able to see a show at a club or some kind of concert venue. Figured I’d dive right in on my first trip there.

So I poked around and found a few promising shows. Raul Malo playing a harbor cruise. Marlena Shaw at a jazz club. Kelly Willis at another place. All good gigs, but nothing that really blew us away. So we decided to hang loose. Because we did, we found something even better.

On Thursday morning, our first full day in the city, we picked up one of the free papers. There, I saw a listing of the day’s events, and I could scarcely believe our good fortune.


There it was: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, playing a free show that night in Battery Park as part of a summer concert series. All you had to do was show up and ask for tickets.

Sharon Jones may be the best soul singer working today. She’s another of those singers who, though small in stature, has a big voice. (That’s her in our photo, wearing white, facing stage left, in front of the tower second from right.) Her performance was energetic, light-hearted, playful, intense and joyous. That it was a hot, steamy night didn’t seem to bother her a bit.

The Dap-Kings may be the best backing band working today. A tight, funky, soulful eight-piece group with a fine horn section, they also backed Amy Winehouse on her recent tour of the States.

They’re not likely to play our corner of Wisconsin anytime soon, if ever, so it was a no-brainer. To say we enjoyed it is an understatement. It was terrific.

Sharon Jones’ story, if you’re new to her: She was born in Augusta, Georgia, the home of James Brown. She started singing in church, then moved to Brooklyn as a teenager and was a backup singer for soul, funk, gospel and disco sessions. In the ’80s, singing took a back seat to working as a corrections officer. Rediscovered while singing in church in 1996, she worked first with New York soul/funk label Desco Records. Since 2002, she’s been with the Dap-Kings on Brooklyn soul/funk label Daptone Records. Their third full-length record, “100 Days, 100 Nights,” comes out this fall.


Having heard most of their first two albums, and now having heard a couple of cuts off the new album and having enjoyed their sizzling live performance, I can’t wait for Oct. 2. Hope you’ll enjoy the soul and funk of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings as much as I have.


“The Dap Dip,” Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, from “Dap-Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings,” 2002.


“My Man Is A Mean Man,” Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, from “Naturally,” 2005.

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Filed under August 2007, Sounds