Sharon Jones carried the tone of hope, love and justice on her posthumous seventh album with the Dap-Kings. Jones’ music career developed in her 40s, releasing her first album with the Dap-Kings in 2002, Dap Dippin’ With Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, at age 45. The band reached the peak of success twelve years later with a ‘Best R&B Album’ Grammy nomination for Give the People What They Want. This album had a delayed release due to Jones’ treatments for pancreatic cancer, but she survived to see its success. Unfortunately in 2015, the cancer returned and the same could not be said for Soul of a Woman.
Less than two weeks before her death, Jones’ suffered a stroke while watching the 2016 Presidential Election results roll in. The shift in political climate experienced as of late was addressed with optimism on the album’s opening track, “Matter of Time.” The “song about peace” is bright and soulful with Jones’ singing, “Just a little bit of time until freedom will mean free / I don’t mean one side beatin’ the other side / I mean no more sides / I’m talkin’ unity for all people.”
“Sail On” is a beachy hit the ‘60s missed out on. Jones wails amid blasting trumpets and funky bass guitar riffs. Next, dramatic horns and Jones’ curling, harmonic “hooh” before verses make this an R&B soul hit. An uplifting bop about unity follows, where Jones assures us she’s “in our corner” and welcomes listeners to “Come and Be a Winner.”
Another album highlight is “Rumors.” The cheeky “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” themed track has a Latin instrumental influence and pop construction. Soul of a Woman’s biggest earworm is the chorus, “Rumors tell me that you’re good baby,” that will have listeners picturing Jones and the Dapettes wagging fingers to the beat. “Searching For A New Day” gives light to Jones’ character, as she sings about wanting to use her “newfound fame” to “lend a helping hand to all those in need, however I can.”
Jones leaves us with a gospel composition she penned in the ‘70s and recorded a decade ago. She testifies and her full, thick alto soars for “Call On God,” though the song is made complete with backing vocals by the ensemble she led at The Universal Church of God added after her death.
Soul of a Woman is eleven tracks of ‘60s and ‘70s inspired soul and funk. Though likely the band’s final album, its message of hope will live on.