Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: Hit in Your Soul
Nov 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Bill Murphy
On the corner of Central Avenue and Troutman Street in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, a busted-up van with its doors flung wide open is cranking Boogie Down Production's “The Bridge Is Over,” the jagged drum machine beats spilling out like shards into the oppressive summer heat. It's an off-kilter, 20-year throwback to hip-hop's heyday, but meanwhile, just down the street, a tight-knit group of talented players is dialing back the clock even further — to a time when sweet soul music ruled the airwaves.
Walking into Daptone Studios is pretty much like walking into any other row house in this rough-and-tumble neighborhood. But what makes this particular house so unique is the full-blown recording studio on the ground floor, a second studio and rehearsal space (with enormous Stocktronics plate reverb) in the basement and the Daptone Records label offices upstairs. House producer, songwriter, bassist and Daptone co-founder Gabriel “Bosco Mann” Roth has carefully stocked the studio with a treasure trove of vintage tape machines and analog gear, all in a sincere and dedicated effort to capture a sound that he feels has been lost from most recordings today.
“If you listen to Stax or some of the Motown records, or even Beatles records,” he explains, his signature dark shades glinting in the late-afternoon light, “they all have this real sense of space to them. I think one of the biggest things is once you pull the drums and the bass out of the middle of a record, it just suddenly opens up that space. Those are the records that make sense to me.”
Roth puts his production ideas to the test on 100 Days, 100 Nights (Daptone, 2007), the third release from the label's flagship act, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. For those not yet in the know, a quick breakdown: the Daps, part of a loose indie collective of musicians that includes Antibalas, the Budos Band, the Sugarman Three and various other groups on the sweat-inducing Brooklyn soul-funk-afrobeat scene, have quickly become a musical lightning rod. As of late, they've attracted the attention of such luminaries as Kanye West (who has sampled the group's wares), The Roots' Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson (who invited the Daptone Horns to work on a monumental new album with Al Green), Amy Winehouse (as her touring band and on her album Back to Black), Mark Ronson (on his second solo album, Version) and surely more to come.
Meanwhile, lead singer Sharon Jones has taken off in her own right. Not only did Lou Reed recruit her to join him on his recent “Berlin” tour, but Jones is also slated to appear later this year in the Denzel Washington-directed film, The Great Debaters. Charismatic and high-energy to the core, Jones gets to show yet another side of her multifaceted range on 100 Days, reaching down for some of the Southern gospel roots that inspired her as a child.
“Keeping all those spirits alive — that's what a lot of gospel is about,” Jones gushes, citing Sam Cooke and Otis Redding as some of her earliest influences, and sounding musical even when she's just talking on the phone. “You have to listen to these old songs to keep them in your heart. And so I guess by doing that, we've made other people want to bring back that sound and that spirit. Keeping that spirit alive — I think that's what we're doing at Daptone, you know?”