Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Retreat!” by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings from the upcoming 2014 album Give the People What They Want on Daptone.
Billed by her label as the Queen of Modern Soul, Sharon Jones and her partners in crime the Dap-Kings have established themselves as the torchbearers of a revival of the soulful sounds of late ’60s/early ’70s R&B. Although both sides had previous musical adventures (Jones with studio work in the ’70s, the various Dap-Kings in assorted combos located primarily in New York), the musicians’ paths merged in the late ’90s. Jones had been riding a wave of unexpected success after serving as a backing vocalist for Lee Fields, and Daptone Records leaders Gabriel Roth and Neal Sugarman had been gathering musicians and building a studio to help further their vision of a resurgence of vintage soul music recorded straight to analog tape and performed with the gusto of the genre’s legendary performers. Driven by a James Brown-style work ethic, the group toured and recorded relentlessly, picking up a reputation for their electric live performances that would also provide the band with a number of session gigs (they’ve played with everyone from David Byrne to Michael Buble, notably serving as the backing band for most of Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black).
The band’s momentum was briefly stalled in June 2013 when Jones was diagnosed with stage one bile duct cancer, which postponed the release and tour behind their fifth album, Give The People What They Want, but fortunately, Jones recovered after successful treatment and is as determined as ever to get back on the road. Although it was written before Jones’ diagnosis, it’s hard not to interpret “Retreat!” as an anthem of resolution and defiance. Martial, imposing, and armed with plenty of striking horns, Jones notes that “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorn” and “Retreat!” is a reminder - as if one was necessary - that she and the Dap-Kings are one of the most consistently rewarding R&B groups on the circuit and nothing can slow them down.
After sitting the latter half of 2013 out to recover, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings will be working overtime in 2014. They’ll release Give The People What They Want on January 14th (there’s a listening party at Silver Platters on Sunday, January 5th) before heading out on tour, including a two-night stand at the Showbox at the Market on April 2-3. Get tickets and info about those shows here, keep up with the band at their website and Facebook, and watch the animated, Lizzi Akana-directed video for “Retreat!” below.