Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, "Soul of a Woman" (Daptone Records)
Sharon Jones recorded "Soul of a Woman" with the extraordinarily able and reliable Dap-Kings while battling the cancer which took her life a year ago — but her energy and vocal prowess are undiminished here.
Nearly all band members wrote material for the album which offers a snug fit for Jones and continues the group's aesthetic of true soul sounds. The balance tilts slightly toward ballads, especially on the second half.
Jones was a real powerhouse onstage and the one-two combination of the hopeful "Matter of Time" with the forgiving "Sail On!" gets the record off to an urgent start. "Rumors" is a playful, Latin-flavored dance-floor filler with some exquisite harmonies from Jones herself.
Curtis Mayfield could have inspired "Searching for a New Day" and "Girl! (You Got to Forgive Him)" has the drama of a James Bond theme song sung by Shirley Bassey and written by Isaac Hayes.
Fittingly, the album closes with Jones' own gospel composition, "Call On God." The testimonial was written in the late 1970s, recorded in 2007 and features backing vocals added shortly after Jones' death by members of choir of the Universal Church of God, an ensemble she led for years.
Despite the spirituality of the last song and a couple of tunes about time, the band's seventh studio album doesn't convey a sense of finality. You can be sure there were tears in its making and you may shed some yourself knowing its conclusion, but Jones stayed true to herself and recorded only when she really felt up to it.
Recognition and success came late in life to Jones but her final performances are recurring proof that both were extremely well deserved.