New Recordings: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Peter Gabriel and friends, Rosanne Cash
Ratings: **** Excellent, *** Good, ** Fair, * Poor
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Give the People What They Want
It's about the music first and foremost, of course, but it's also about the context. And the circumstances behind the release of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings' fifth studio album make you appreciate all the more the verve and vivacity with which the soul revivalist band put over the rawboned sound. Give the People What They Want was originally scheduled to be released last summer, but it was pushed back after the 57-year-old singer was diagnosed with bile-duct cancer. After she finishes up her chemotherapy treatments, Jones and her snappy Brooklyn band will return to the road next month, and although they were recorded before she became ill, songs like the lead single, "Retreat," ("Retreat! What a fool you are to be taking me on") and "People Don't Get What They Deserve" take on added gravitas considering the troubles of the pint-sized powerhouse singer. Not that Give The People What They Want is at all a self-serious difficult pill to swallow. What the people want from Jones & the Dap-Kings are hard-driving, old-school R&B jams in which the spirits of cherished singers like Otis Redding and Joe Tex are reanimated, and these 10 tunes take care of that business as effectively as ever.
And I'll Scratch Yours
(Real World **1/2)
Turnabout is fine music. This album is the reciprocal to Peter Gabriel's 2010 album, Scratch My Back, on which he covered artists from Paul Simon to Arcade Fire. Now those singers and a couple of new additions return the favor, interpreting Gabriel's songs. The results range from dutiful (Regina Spektor on "Blood of Eden") to transformative (the late Lou Reed on an elegiac "Solsbury Hill"). Highlights include "Come Talk to Me," which Bon Iver translates as a cascading banjo ballad that sounds almost hymnal, and "Not One of Us," which Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields twists into a jumped-up robo-song. Scratch My Back is a better album because Gabriel, soon to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, made the songs his own. Here the material is simply being borrowed.
- David Hiltbrand
The River & the Thread
(Blue Note ***1/2)
Rosanne Cash titled her 2010 memoir Composed, and that's a fitting adjective for her work. Her songs rarely cut loose, but they simmer with restrained emotion and power and find strength in understatement. Her last two albums, 2006's Black Cadillac and 2009's The List, grappled with the legacy of her father, Johnny Cash, and his spirit still informs The River & the Thread. But this album is more her story than his. It's an examination of her own Southern roots, sometimes autobiographical, sometimes historical, almost always geographic.
Cash wrote the songs with her husband, guitarist and producer John Leventhal, and they match the references to Memphis, Mobile, and Nashville with arrangements that hint at swamp rock, blues, R&B, and country - archetypal Southern roots music. Guests drop in - John Prine, Allison Moorer, Cash's former husband Rodney Crowell - but they're secondary to Cash's calm and compassionate vocals and her literate and sharp-eyed narratives.
- Steve Klinge
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SOURCE: SoundScan (based on purchase data from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties). Billboard Magazine 1/18/14 © 2014
On Sale Tuesday
Jennifer Nettles, That Girl; The Crystal Method, The Crystal Method; Mary Chapin Carpenter, Songs from the Movie; James Vincent McMorrow, Post-Tropical