The new documentary Miss Sharon Jones! captures a subject who is in the midst of the fight of her life after a crippling diagnosis of pancreatic cancer right in the middle of career surge in popularity. The singer along with her band have been a critically central to retro souls rebirth; Daptone Records has acted as a Brooklyn based hub for gritty and groovy tracks that recall the peak of the genre with new added flourishes. The biggest of these has been given to singers who never got a fair shake in their career, and Sharon Jones is the labels flagship vocalist, having been the focus of the first full length record the company ever released.
This soundtrack to her documentary (which will hopefully widen her appeal) is strong testament to her career, going back to some early tracks through her recent Grammy nominated Give The People What They Want. The funky soul sounds straight from a day gone by but these tracks are classic, as is Jones direct singing.
The shouting of both the horns and Jones kick off things with “Tell Me” in her female James Brown style before the power blasts that form “Retreat!” roll out. This track is sung as if she was directing it directly to the cancer itself. The band is in crisp, topnotch form, as a well lubed touring machine, but the showcase here is clearly on the frontwoman.
The dynamic groove of “100 Days, 100 Nights” gets down gloriously, slowing for maximum effect. “Keep On Looking” has the done wrong woman lyrics with a drive behind them while “Humble Me” moves more into torch song territory dragging just a touch. “I Learned The Hard Way” showcases a fifties girl group vibe with backing vocals shining bright while the aptly named “Slow Down, Love” cools things off before the finale.
The slinky, autobiographical LP closer “I’m Still Here” is a doozy as it showcases blacksploitation conga tinged funk, bright horns and a defiant Jones belting out her life story. It is seeing its official release here and as it fades out closing the soundtrack, it becomes the perfect summation to the album and Jones life.