Album Review: Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – I Learned the Hard Way

“I Learned the Hard Way” by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

I Learned the Hard Way - 2010

Feel like the phrases “old school” and “from a different era” are thrown around a lot. I’m certainly as guilty as anyone. But if these phrases didn’t exist we might have to make up some new ones to describe Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. And when I say old school with regards to Ms. Jones and company I’m not using it lightly. These guys aren’t one of those bands that have a hint of “Dylan” in their vocals or a touch of “the Beatles” in their harmonies. No, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are a different breed. Not only are they clearly familiar with and influenced by early 60’s Motown and soul, but they live it. The difference is like comparing someone who has seen the Star Wars movies a few times with someone who actually believes in “the Force”. I feel like they are so much more than just imitators. I really think that they are the real deal, but somehow they have been misplaced on the time line of musical evolution by roughly 50 years.

Sharon - Gettin' Down


The sound that Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are tapping into is one that is still relatively untouched in realm of retro inspired music. There are people out there who do retro R&B and Motown but you will be hard pressed to find anyone who is diving this deep into heavy, heartfelt, soul music like the Dap Kings are.

Normally I feel like when a lead puts their name in front of the rest of their band’s name it seems a bit disrespectful. However, in the case of Sharon Jones, lets be, she is the band. That is not to say that the Dap Kings are lacking in anyway. But Sharon Jones transforms what would otherwise be some cool vintage tunes into something special. She is a powerhouse who demands your attention even while just listening. Sharon Jones does more than just sing, she oozes soul, emotion and “cool” in every song.

Here are three of my favorite tracks:

“I Learned the Hard Way”

“Mama Don’t Like My Man”

“Better Things to Do”

Are Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings so good because they are the only people still making this type of music?
Can you think of any other artists that overshadow the rest of their band the way Sharon Jones does?
When does a hobby become an obsession?
Were the 60’s the best music decade of all time?

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings 4.5 out of 5

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