I Learned the Hard Way

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I Learned the Hard Way
Composer: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Label: Daptone
Release Date: 2010-04-28
Rated: NONE
Media: CD
Length: LP
Format: Album
Genre: Recording

Though it’s not a straight-up break-up album, I Learned the Hard Way, the latest from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, serves up a soul remedy for the broken-hearted. Jones, the Georgia-by-way-of-Brooklyn 53-year-old soul diva, opens her fourth album with a trilogy of moping (“The Game Gets Old”), heartbreak (“I Learned the Hard Way”), and acceptance (“Better Things”). But Jones’s sassy personality brings hand-clapping pride and hip-shaking joy to pain, accompanied by her industry-beloved backing band, widely credited for spreading Soul’s golden age to Mark Ronson-approved contemporary hit-makers. Since their inception in the early ’00s, the Dap-Kings mined Stax records and Muscle Shoals for funky ’60s influences to match Jones’s powerful delivery, and recorded the stylish finished product in analog for even more versimilitude. This time, the analog and Jones’s sexy alto stay, but more band members have writing input, and small surprises, like fluttery string arrangements from Philly on “The Game Gets Old,” jazzy vocals on “I’ll Still Be True,” and Motown rhytmns on “Without a Heart” help Jones and the Dap-Kings avoid the monotony that often befalls revivalist bands. Though Jones and the Dap-Kings’ previous records left little room for improvement, the variety on I Learned the Hard Way make even its saddest songs (“She Ain’t a Child No More”) easy to swallow. — Callie Enlow

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