Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings Perform “This Land Is Your Land”

sjdknaturallyListen to this track by New York-based, twenty-first century funk-soul standard-bearers The Dap Kings as led by vocal powerhouse Sharon Jones. It’s “This Land Is Your Land”, an American folk anthem as written by fascism-fighting songwriter Woody Guthrie, re-positioned here as a sweaty soul jam in a minor key. The track is featured on their 2005 album Naturally, their second.

Guthrie wrote this song in 1940 in response to a certain strain of American jingoism that papered over the disenfranchisement experienced by many during the years of the Great Depression. Despite it’s jaunty feelĀ and kid-friendly reputation, by the late forties and early 1950s in the McCarthy era, Guthrie’s song was considered dangerous due to some redacted verses that criticized American life directly. This song was about claiming a birthright, and being blocked while trying to do so. It revealed cracks in the facade.

When multi-racial soul band Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings recorded it in the mid-2000s, their version wasn’t entirely removed from the intent of its author during an era of ever-widening gaps between rich and poor, and a second term for George W. Bush. How has the politically charged relevanceĀ of this song changed since then, stylistic textures aside? Given that it was written by one who stood openly opposed to fascism, the answer is a very discouraging “not very much”. Read more

Daptone Records – Classic Soul-Funk in a Digital Age

Daptone Records LogoIn reading an article about the rise and fall (and rise again!), of Stax records I came across another article about a (relatively) new label who loosely model themselves on the original Stax label – Daptone records.

The label started with the idea that musicians could make music they think is cool, record it, and put it out on their own. A radical idea indeed! The group of musicians have their hand in a number of projects, most notably Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, who some might consider to be a revivalist take on classic southern soul traditions. But, as it is pointed out in the article in the January issue of MOJO magazine, these guys have backed Amy Winehouse – both on record and live.

Amy Winehouse, despite her recent tabloid adventures, has a smash album on her hands with Back to Black (a recommended release as well, people, if you’ve not heard it). So, they’re not a stab at hitting the nostalgia market – millions of people are loving the sounds they’re making right now from middle-aged rockists like me, to teenage girls singing in the front rows in venues across the globe.

I find the very existence of this collective of musicians, producers, and studio/label owners very encouraging. It helps that their approach takes its lead from the basics – live music, real instruments, with artistic control taken pretty literally. In making the comparison to Stax, let’s hope they continue to exemplify the strengths of that label – great music, family environment, lots of hits, and a lasting legacy. And let’s hope too that they avoid the pitfalls!

Check out their roster of musicians, and the new record from Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings, 100 Days, 100 Nights.

Watch and hear Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

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Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings 100 Days 100 Nights