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Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, Naturally 

(Daptone Records, CD)

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings are as righteous as they come. Featuring horns, guitars, bass drums and Jones' sultry voice, the eight-piece group positively smokes. You're not likely to hear anything as legitimately funky and soulful as their sophomore album Naturally anytime soon -- that is, unless you invent a time machine.

This album is so damn good it's tough not to write in all caps. From the dark strut of opener "How Do I Let a Good Man Down?" to the mellow sway of closing track "All Over Again," Naturally affects a stone-cold groove. I don't know how the hell producer/bassist Bosco Mann managed to capture the gritty analog vibe of '60s soul music, but I can tell you this -- it's bona fide.

"Natural Born Lover" shimmies deliciously, its chorus supported by a James Brown-style breakbeat that snaps and cracks with skillet-licking authority. Jones' performance on the cut instantly gives you shivers; her no-nonsense delivery and smoldering pipes could melt a glacier. And the album only gets better from there. Guest vocalist Lee Fields gives Jones a run for her money on "Stranded in Your Love," a raunchy little number about a busted-up relationship that nonetheless provides certain "comforts." Fields' whiskey-soaked croon is the perfect complement to Jones' buttery incantations. Sexy, sleek and more than a little volatile, their duet explodes with sassy charisma.

"Your Thing is a Drag" is an album highlight; a collision of smart funk vamps and Motown shuffle. A snaky sax solo uncoils in the right speaker while Mann's spring-loaded bass line froths and bubbles.

Gooey, melodic guitar runs color "How Long Do I Have to Wait for You?" -- a sweetly earnest plea from a woman ready to let go of the memory of an ex-lover but utterly incapable of doing so. Horns stab around the slippery beat and buoyant bass line like a prizefighter landing strategic jabs; it's hard to believe they didn't just find this album in some Muscle Shoals Studios broom closet.

In this era of canned beats, loops and super-processed vocals, it's positively shocking to hear a red-blooded rhythm section and unadorned vocalist get so down and dirty. Sharon Jones & the Dap-kings would've been near the top of the heap four decades ago; in the present day, they're uncontestable. Don't miss them at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge this Friday, April 29.

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About The Author

Casey Rea

Casey Rea

Casey Rea was the Seven Days music editor from 2004 until 2007. He won the 2005 John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.


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