Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, "Give the People What They Want" (Daptone)
The circumstances behind the release of this Brooklyn group's fifth studio album make you appreciate all the more the verve and vivacity behind the soul revivalist's rawboned sound. "Give the People" was originally scheduled to be released last summer, but it was delayed after the 57-year-old singer was diagnosed with bile-duct cancer. After she finishes chemotherapy, Jones and her snappy band will return to the road, and although they were recorded before she became ill, songs like the lead single, "Retreat," and "People Don't Get What They Deserve" take on added gravitas considering her troubles.
Not that "Give the People What They Want" is at all a self-serious difficult pill to swallow. What the people want from Jones & the Dap-Kings are hard-driving, old-school R&B jams in which the spirits of Otis Redding and Joe Tex are reanimated, and these tunes do that as effectively as ever. (Jones and the Dap-Kings perform April 9 at the State Theatre in Minneapolis.)
Dan DeLuca, Philadelphia Inquirer
Ryan Star, "Angels + Animals" (Ryan Star)
Star graduates to a new level of artistry here, taking the emotion his work has always had and the craftsmanship he learned on his major-label debut, "11:59," and setting it in a new, ambitious context. Pop concept albums are exceedingly hard to pull off, but Star manages in this tale of love lost and reclaimed. It's like he commandeered adult pop radio to tell his story, with "We Were Kings" as dramatic as Imagine Dragons, "My Life" as emotional as Passenger and the single "Impossible" using catchy rhythms and subtle guitar to build an inspirational sing-along.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Lone Justice, "This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983" (Omnivore)
These 12 songs of adrenalized country music capture a fiery band at the beginning of its impressive run. The Los Angeles country-rock band, birthed by vocalist Maria McKee and guitarist Ryan Hedgecock, is best known for its run of near-misses (despite being managed by a young Jimmy Iovine) in the mid-'80s; but these songs were cut before the group signed with Geffen Records.
This album introduces McKee & Co. with a combination of covers and originals. Among the classics are Merle Haggard's "Working Man's Blues," the George Jones/Roger Miller song "Nothing Can Stop My Loving You" and the oft-recorded "Jackson." These choices suggest a band that had internalized a heck of a lot of country ideas at a young age.
McKee, after all, was only 18 when this was recorded, and her youth is most obvious in the cut-and-paste Dust Bowl-themed lyrics that dot the originals here. Still, the virtuosity within "The Grapes of Wrath," "Dustbowl Depression Time" and "Soap, Soup and Salvation" presents a confident mix of yowling twang and a heavy backbeat. Overshadowing all, though, is McKee, whose voice sounds like that of a young Dolly Parton fueled by Exene Cervenka's passion.
Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times