It’s difficult to listen to the incomparable soul stylings of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and not think their energetic recordings came out of a vault somewhere. But even with all their gritty authenticity, Jones and company are no ’60s relics.
As a vocalist, Jones possesses a rare combination of fiery fierceness and mournful expressiveness. And backing her up on irresistible musical narratives like “She Ain’t a Child No More” and “Mama Don’t Like My Man” are the Dap-Kings, who are incredible interpreters of that signature ’60s sound. With the blazing power of the horns, the pared-down brilliance of the rhythm section, and the pitch-perfect crooning of Jones’ backup singers, each arrangement sounds flawless without coming off as overly polished or produced. A perfect choice for anyone who’d rather soothe her heartache with a dance party rather than a dirge, I Learned the Hard Way hits all the right notes.