Sharon Jones, the big-voiced lead singer of the Dap-Kings -- a band that recently began making its name known outside those enthusiasts of the Daptone label and the reaches of the soul community thanks to appearances with Amy Winehouse and work for Mark Ronson, including a version of Dylan's "Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)" -- is no music-world neophyte.
100 Days, 100 Nights is just her third full-length with the Dap-Kings, but Jones has been singing on and off since the 1970s, without much of a break until she began working with her current label. Meaning, she's certainly paid her dues, and she has enough life experience behind her voice to make the words she sings sound that much truer.
Because soul music -- and this isn't neo-soul, or contemporary R&B, but straight-up Stax and Motown brassy soul -- is so much more than the actual lyrics themselves; it's about the inflection and emotion that the vocalist is able to exude, and Jones proves herself to be master of that, moving from coy to romantic to defiant easily and believably.
The album is much smoother, even gentler, than her previous releases, and though the Dap-Kings still power their way through the ten songs with bright horn licks, inspired drumming, and staccato guitar lines, there's a deeper, bluesier edge to the record, heard in "Let Them Knock" or the slower "Humble Me." "Don't let me forget who I am," Jones croons in the latter, her voice rising to a sweet falsetto at the end of the phrase. It's a very clean record, not over-produced but well produced, with a lot of great pop moments tucked in between the brassier, funkier bits.
The title track relies on a sultry organ and a minor vamp to make its point, while "Something's Changed" uses strings and punctuated sax and bass as the singer drops a bit of her lungs out, bringing a kind of immediacy to her words, as if the actuality of the situation around her hasn't quite set in enough for her to wail about it, as if she's just realizing it and listeners are right there to hear about it.
But that's the magic and power of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: their ability to convey passion and pain, regret and celebration, found in the arrangements and the tail ends of notes, in the rhythms and phrasing, and it is exactly that which makes 100 Days, 100 Nights such an excellent release.