The first question that springs to mind when listening to Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings’ Naturally is: how does a record like this get made in this day and age? It sounds like it was made in the `70s, quite frankly, right down to the reverb and the fuzzy quality of the recording. Jones is a right-on funk-soul sister and she and her team of funksters play it raw, hot and, most importantly, funk-ay. And as sad as it sounds, these days, that’s a pretty rare occurrence.
From the opening guitar licks of “How Do I Let a Good Man Down?” the Dap-Kings lay down a solid groove that doesn’t stop for 40 minutes. As their bio will tell you, they are the world’s mightiest “Live Funk and Soul Revue.” This music has heart. This music has soul. This music has hips. And that ain’t no jive. Jones, herself, claims, “If you can’t feel the music on this album, then you must be a dead ass!” That’s a pretty bold claim, I must say, but she’s right. Naturally is unstoppable.
Throughout Naturally‘s 40 minutes, the Dap-Kings play it old school, just like James or Aretha would want it. They can play it slow, like they do on “Stranded in Your Love,” fast and furious like they do on “My Man is a Mean Man,” fun and soulful like they do on “How Long Do I Have to Wait for You?” and clever like they do on their reading of “This Land is Your Land,” which borrows from “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”
Jones’ lyrics are largely of the relationship variety, whether it be about a “Natural Born Lover” (“he’s a n-b-l and he t-c-b“) or a “Mean Man” (“I try all that I can/to keep from making him mad/what kind of love/can make a girl feel so bad?“). But she does deviate, as in the aforementioned cover of “This Land is Your Land,” a convincing argument for Jones for president. However, “Stranded in Your Love” is an anomaly, a remarkably silly song about vehicle theft, with guest vocals provided by Lee Fields (“I just came by to get my things/how was I to know some joker would steal my ride?“).
Naturally is a rare gem today. Classic soul seems all but extinct, but Jones and Co. are keeping it alive, and boy, is it ever alive! Naturally, as the name implies, flows naturally and sounds fantastic. It’s organic, fun and, let’s not forget, funky.
Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul
Mighty Imperials – Thunder Chicken
Lee Fields – Let’s Get a Groove On
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.