Soul of a Woman, the final album from Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, reflects on the joys, pains, challenges, and triumphs of her life before she passed away from cancer on November 18, 2016. In the eleven songs that were written and recorded in the soul/funk style of the 1960s and 1970s, we catch a glimpse of the soul of this woman who was born in that era, but died in a very different world. Soul of a Woman was released one day short of a year after she died.
Sharon Jones aspired to a solo career ever since she was a young gospel singer in New York, but had to spend time as a corrections officer until she gained attention and musical success later in life. She released her first record at age 40 and received her first and only Grammy nomination just two years before her death. Her mother knew James Brown personally, and Jones is often compared to him and celebrated for her similar energetic performance style.
Her band, The Dap-Kings, is a ten-piece soul band from Brooklyn, N.Y. They have been recording and performing for decades, with members often writing songs and performing for other artists such as Amy Winehouse, Michael Bublé, Bruno Mars, and most recently Kesha.
Time is one of the most prominent themes throughout the album. The musicians use nostalgia and regret to sadly explore our limited time here on earth while also hopefully looking towards eternity. As Jones battled cancer during the writing of this album, time would have been on the minds of all involved in the creative process.
Many songs also explore romantic love and belonging, juxtaposing stories of the trials of love (“Rumors”) with songs celebrating deep connection (“Come and Be a Winner,” “When I Saw Your Face”).
Faith is thinly veiled throughout the album until the final song “Call on God” in which Jones sings plainly about the sorrows of this life and encouraging us to “Just call, call on God, and He'll carry you through.” The last verse of the song and album is particularly powerful as Jones shares her resolve:
I made up my mind to be with Him all the time
And I won't let nothing turn me around
To be like Him is what I long to be
And to share His love to eternity
Soul of a Woman is an excellent album for fans of the soul and funk era of the 60s and 70s, providing authentic recordings and fresh material. Many of the lyrics and themes of this album are standard for this genre, but there are glimpses of vulnerability and Jones’ faith story. Watching the documentary Miss Sharon Jones! will provide additional context to this album, allowing listeners to connect even more with the songs. (Daptone)