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
Support Local Journalism.
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the San Antonio Press Club for as little as $5 a month.