Sharon Jones @ Outside Lands, photo by Natalie Kardos
I have no never-ending mental catalog of soul but I know my stuff–my collection includes all of Stax’s and Motown’s singles from 1959-1968 among other stuff. It makes me happy when I hear a new artist doing soul right, like Mayer Hawthorne, Raphael Saadiq or Candie Payne.
In the last few months, I’ve heard two albums that I really think have done soul and soul-funk right–it’s soul that’s authentic but still fresh and invigorating. It pays tribute without being a cheap imitation. They’re both thoroughly enjoyable for many hours of listening.
The Kings Go Forth (myspace) are from
Minnesota Milwaukee. A ten-piece soul and funk outfit, they’re not the standard sort of band coming up right now, but, man, is The Outsiders are Back a fantastic album. From the upbeat and almost exuberant opener “One Day” to the hard-swinging, hard-hitting, falsetto-voiced ballad “Fight With Love”, it’s a worthwhile listen.
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings (myspace) are an established band by this point, playing big venues and festivals from coast to coast. While their previous albums (like 2007’s breakout One Hundred Days, One Hundred Nights) were enjoyable, the recently released I Learned the Hard Way is the first, I feel like, that sounds right. Though the songs don’t all sound alike, it’s stylistically similar in a way that transports me; there were multiple times that songs from the album came on and I thought I was listening to some ’60s b-side. “Better Things to Do” has a nice swagger and melody to it, while the title track could have been a Stax single from that time.
My favorite track, though, is the closer, “Mama Don’t Like My Man”. The simple, distorted guitars under the anguished lead vocals and back-ups reminds me uncannily of ’60s soul gospel numbers. I often thing an acoustic session with a modern indie pop band will tell you if they actually have good songs, so does this song reveal that Jones and Co have good songs and plenty of style.
You can grab the title track in exchange for your email address or hear more at their myspace.