Tag Archives: sharon jones and the dap-kings

Spring Cleaning and that Fresh Feeling

do you have your ducks in a row?
are your ducks in a row? (photo courtesy coyotemercury.com)

Cleaning. It’s not just a way to help you find a quick, uninhibited pathway to the nearest exit in case of emergency. It’s a process that can inspire a renewed state of purpose, satisfaction, and accomplishment. It can be as mentally and psychologically refreshing an activity as it is a physically involved task.

It’s been a good few days of spring cleaning around here. Clearing out the mental cobwebs and making space and time to reassess, reorganize, and recommit to the people and things that are important. Like the physical upkeep of a home, it’s not so easy to get at every inch, crevice, and crag of the space at once, and somehow you tend to underestimate the amount of time you’ll need to complete the job. But eventually you make it.

Just like cleaning the house it’s good to check in with yourself from time to time as new furniture is added and new challenges arise. And just like cleaning a house, it’s important to have a few helpful tunes to give you some extra sage words of wisdom to carry you through the process.

1. Nickel Creek – Rest of My Life

Nothing like waking up the morning after a rocking good party to the sight of trashed couches and smell of stale beer to make you reassess what your priorities are. Often times, if you haven’t swabbed the deck recently– If you haven’t had that personal check-in for a while– you might feel like this too.

First things first: get yourself a fresh glass of water, assess the situation at hand, and then start picking up the place.

“It’s one of those endings / No one claps ’cause they’re sure that there’s more.” Turns out that life doesn’t stop or take breaks. Dreams and sleep aren’t even breaks: they’re more like connectors between conscious moments– and pretty active ones at that when you consider the sorts of complex situations they conjure up. The best thing we can do is roll with the punches. The blemishes and missteps are part of the continuum, and, if we’re smart, we might even learn something from them. “The battle is over / We lost but we’ll live to call off the war.” It’s not about sweeping up every speck of dust– it’s about getting to somewhere that feels like progress.

2. Father John Misty – I’m Writing A Novel

This one’ll definitely get you going. Heck you may find yourself even whistling while you work. Equal parts “Paperback Writer ” rockabilly sensibilities and “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”-esque mashup of images and metaphors this wild romp of a tune makes quite the statement about what’s really “normal” in this life. The world’s a spinning mess of curious, crazy creatures, and what’s normal to you might actually be ridiculous to someone else. Likewise, what’s crazy to you may be status quo for someone else. All we can do is accept the madness, be ourselves, and keep our own reality together. And keeping track of the stories that come about (read: keep a journal… maybe even a blog!) is a good way to do this. “I’ll never leave the canyon ’cause I’m surrounded on all sides / By people writing novels and living lives that look like mine.” Everybody’s got stories they’re trying to tell, but nobody can tell our own stories better than we can.

3. Leif Vollebekk – Cairo Blues

This song’s as airy and light as a breezy spring day making it a fitting companion for all manner of housekeeping. The story may focus on the careless indecision and the mounting insecurity of one unfortunate girl he left back in the sleepy midwest,  but he’s got a good head on his shoulders, preferring to look ahead to better, brighter days. She may not clean up well, but at least he can. Though he may not soon be able to completely let go– “it don’t drown out those Cairo blues for good”– he’ll ride on, kicking out the cobwebs bit by bit and making room for sunnier, more promising plans on the horizon.

And speaking of easy and breezy…

4. Earth, Wind & Fire – That’s The Way of the World

Oh yeah. Even when taking on the toughest tasks, the deepest stains, the hardest truths– turn this one on and see those troubles lessen just enough to make it manageable. How can you argue with these guys? Their musicianship and groove alone should be enough to take you to a higher place. But if that’s not enough: just remember: “Looking back we’ve touched on sorrowful days / Future pass, they disappear.” You’ll pull through. You’ll get there. “Plant your flower and you grow a pearl.”

5. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – We Get Along

And remember- you’re not alone. Taking the more straight-forward, narrative approach, the message here is plain: we’ll make it through. We will. We all have tough days, tough months– tough years even. But we’ll make it. We’ll muddle through somehow. And if we can find a way to muddle through together– actually working together to make things better for ourselves and for others– well then we’ll all benefit. Enough great visionaries, thinkers, and doers have said it, so there must be something to it: do well for others, be good to others, work with each other– and we’ll all succeed. Sounds good to me.

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New Music Tuesday: Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Give The People What They Want

dap

Listening to the lyrics of “Retreat!”, the first track of the new album by this rip-roaring, bombastic super set of musicians, it sounds like your typical tale of deceitful lovers getting their just rewards. Standard fare for this team of talented entertainers. But once you understand the events that transpired over the last seven months for front-woman Sharon Jones, you may want to consider it on a deeper, more personal level, and you wouldn’t be faulted for doing so either.

The album was originally set to drop back in August, but its release and subsequent world tour was postponed when Jones was diagnosed with stage two pancreatic cancer in June. Although the record was fully formed, recorded, mixed, and mastered in August, many if not all of the songs on it and the stories told within them have taken on an undeniable second meaning.

Thus the metamorphosis of the initial track’s story from tale of a scorned lover giving a razor-sharp warning of retribution if he drops by again to that of a cancer survivor warning the disease that ravaged her body not to even think about plotting a second attack, because she’s through with it. Retreat, Jones says with immense control and renewed confidence, you’ll never win. Similarly, it’s how a song like “Now I See” can be at once a statement of acceptance of the harm done by a caustic relationship and desire to move on as well as an anthem of returning to self-confidence after dealing with an experience of a rockier and even more profound sort altogether. Each song is given new, deeper significance.

It’s not just about getting over the pain and anguish that comes from these torrid relationships, it’s also remembering how to live once they’ve passed. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the current single “Stranger to My Happiness.” More than any terrible relationship, a six month bout with cancer– or any length for that matter– can not only do damage to one’s confidence, stamina, and energy, but also one’s ability to recognize and appreciate the simple things of life like the feeling of being happy.

The fact that these songs have taken on this second meaning is not lost on Jones either. In addition to highlighting “Retreat!” as a clear example of the additional layer of significance that’s been added to the album, she tells NPR that she did in fact have to relearn how she interacted with the music period as she began to heal. The thing that had always brought her such boundless happiness and joy in the past became something she couldn’t bear to listen to or even consider during her days and weeks of chemotherapy.

With her last chemo session coming just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, Jones is fully engaged in the recovery process, and both she and her band are ready to take to the road once again. In many of her recent interviews it’s easy to spot the themes of getting second chances that are present in her words. She talks a lot about saying goodbye to the “old Sharon” and being ready to accept and embrace the “new Sharon.” It’s not an easy process, but it’s necessary. Speaking with Vice music blog “Noisey,” she said:

“When I come back my main thing is I know I’m not going to be there because of the way I look. I’m going to be bald. I’m not going to put a wig on. I’m not going to come out with some braided wig on my head to look like I looked before. I’m going to be bald. I’m not going to have my little shimmery dresses when I start back out because that’s the old Sharon.”

Old Sharon or new Sharon, she’s looking forward and staying positive, and if last week’s performance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon is any indication, she and the band are both ready to go, no doubt all the more grateful for each opportunity they have to do their thing together.

Certainly this theme of gratitude will be at the forefront of their minds as they kickstart their tour this February (Boston, surprisingly, is not currently listed as a destination, an oversight I hope to soon help remedy with the help of steady use and promotion of their tour hashtag #WeWantSharon. Join me!). It’s a theme that is also particularly noticeable on tracks like the feisty “People Don’t Get What They Deserve” and the more subdued but no less urgent “We Get Along.” Sharon Jones has the unique misfortune of being someone who’s gone through the fire and come out visibly shaken but equally renewed on the other side.

Whether you’ve been through the sort of harsh and tumultuous realities as well, searching high and low for the gospel of peace, love, and understanding, or just looking to feel the simple joy and satisfaction of good, solid music, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings live out the title of their new album, giving the people what they want, while no doubt also trying to get them what they need as well.

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Give The People What They Want
Daptones, 2014
Rating: A+
Listen Now: “Retreat!”, “Get Up and Get Out”, “You’ll Be Lonely”, “Slow Down Love”