First Impressions: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, It’s a Holiday Soul Party

holiday soulLike any good joke or halfway decent story, the holiday album is really all about the telling: You know where it’s headed and likely won’t be satisfied if you have the expectation of a big surprise ending, but a gifted storyteller can find new life and fresh wrinkles in the yuletide tropes you thought you knew by heart. And Sharon Jones? She counts off her new album like she’s James Brown while her Dap-Kings work vintage JB drum breaks into a thoroughly samplable “Little Drummer Boy”—ain’t it funky now? The first song is about Hannukah and the second one is called “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects.” It’s as good as you’d hope it would be, its sociorealism grounding the project in what Over the Rhine calls “reality Christmas” but not letting it sink into despair: Want of a fireplace may stop Santa but it can’t diminish a good parent’s love. Jones also serves up a “White Christmas” you can shimmy and shake to, a great little groove called “Just Another Christmas Song” that finds room for a “Hark, the Herald Angels” riff, a dreamy slow-dance “Silent Night,” and a light-as-air Christmas confection called “Big Bulbs.” (As in, “Baby you’ve got them…”) Basically, Jones does what she’s always done: Takes tried-and-true sonic comforts and renders them fresh and familiar at the same time. She was made to deliver a classic Christmas LP, and here it is. Bonus points for the fact that she’s still chasing her muse and singing her song even while battling cancer. More bonus points because it’s both funky as all get-out and festive as shit. Buy it.

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