While a neo-soul movement swept across mainstream music throughout much of this decade (culminating with Amy Winehouse’s Grammy award winning Back to Black), most people fail to acknowledge the true impetus of this revival—The Dap-Kings. Formed in 2000 by Daptone Records co-founders Gabriel Roth and Neal Sugarman, the group soon garnered a reputation as one of the premier funk and soul bands. Although these masters of groove have provided support as a house band for many of Daptone’s artists as well as other collaborators, their best work exists with soul crooner Sharon Jones.
Together, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings have situated themselves as the best soul outfit this decade, not only in the quality of their work, but also in their genuine representation of 1960s and 1970s soul traditions. The aptly-titled Naturally (2005) presents Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings’ signature retro-soul in the most instinctive of ways. From the rousing funk of “Natural Born Lover” and “Your Thing is a Drag” to the playful and warm soul-stirring duet “Stranded in Your Love” (featuring Lee Fields), the group manages to channel Aretha Franklin with the support of the J.B.’s across their body of work. “How Do You Let a Good Man Down?” displays an impressive brass instrumentation complimented by rolling rhythmic throwback. The group showcases their highest caliber of funk with “How Long Do I Have to Wait for You?”, which features Jones’ yearning vocals creating a stirring groove that resonates among the decade’s best.
The Dap-Kings might possibly come across as another anachronistic brass-based funk band to some, or Jones as another past-her-prime singer to others—but if you dare think this after listening to Naturally, the erosion of quality in today’s mainstream music may have warped your expectations as to what good soul truly is. Not only are Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings partially responsible for faithfully preserving the musical traditions of decades past, but they also are helping the genre thrive amongst a new generation of listeners that desire to witness the energy present within soul and funk. In accepting this role as a cultural institution de facto, Daptone Records stands as the bastion of authentic soul, The Dap-Kings acts as the backbone of revival, and Sharon stars as the queen of the neo-soul movement.
More from the War on Pop's Decade in Review:
#16 Daft Punk - Discovery (2001)
#17 The Black Keys - Rubber Factory (2004)
#18 LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver (2007)
#19 Antony and the Johnsons - The Crying Light (2009)
#20 Common - Like Water For Chocolate (2000)
#21 Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes (2008)
#22 Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala (2007)
#23 Beach House - Devotion (2008)
#24 El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead (2007)
#25 Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009)