If you’ve been frequenting this site over the course of its seven year history, you’ve come across a number of posts featuring Daptone Records recording artists and JOVM mainstays Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Charles Bradley, and as you may recall, Sharon Jones died late last year after a three year battle with pancreatic cancer and Charles Bradley died earlier this year after a two-year battle with stomach cancer.
As it turns out, Jones and her Dap Kings spent the better part of her last few months writing and recording what is now known as the band’s final, full-length studio album, Soul of a Woman, which is slated to be posthumously released on November 17, 2017 through Daptone Records. Recorded on eight-track tape at Daptone Records’ Bushwick, Brooklyn-based House of Soul Studios, the album finds the band and their beloved leader pushing the limits of their songwriting and sound to create what some have said may arguably be some for he band’s rawest and most sophisticated material they’ve ever written.
Earlier this month, I wrote about Soul of a Woman’s first single “Matter of Time,” a lush and moody meditation and the nature of time that struck me as being inspired by Ecclesiastes and The Byrds’ legendary coverof Pete Seeger’s “Turn, Turn, Turn,” as Jones and company seem to suggest that with everything there’s a season and a purpose; that the pursuit of peace, justice, freedom and equality are frequently part of a necessary, lifelong struggle; and that one day, that struggle will result in a peace, brotherhood, sisterhood and understanding for all. But perhaps, because we now know that Jones died as the band was finishing the material on the album, the song manages to also possess the profound and sad wisdom of the dying — that ultimately, all things are fleeting and impermanent.
The album’s second and latest single “Call on God” was originally written in the late 1970s for E.L. Fields’ Gospel Wonders, a choir she sang with throughout most of her life at the Universal Church of God, here in New York; but interestingly enough, Jones recorded with her Dap Kings during the 100 Days, 100 Nights sessions — and much like “Answer Me,” which made the album, Jones accompanied herself on piano with the band playing behind her, frequently providing specific instructions on how she wanted everything to sound. Though she always provided input on every song, Jones taking full charge was uncommon; however, the band found the experience to be so inspiring that they made a pact with Jones to record a gospel album with her taking the helm. As it turns out “Call on God” was set aside for that eventual gospel album but sadly, the song and the album was never completed.
On December 18, 2016, E.L. Fields’ window, Pastor Margot Fields presided over Sharon Jones’ memorial service in Brooklyn, which was attended by several of the original members of the Gospel Wonders, who had come in from different parts of the country to celebrate Jones and her life. Together again for the first time in many years, they performed a moving tribute to Sharon as part of the service. As the story goes, Bosco Mann and the Dap Kings invited the Gospel Wonders, all who were longtime friends of Sharon’s back to the Daptone Records’ House of Soul Studios to finish “Call on God” with them. And at the studio, the members of the choir put on headphones and heard Sharon Jones’ voice signing the song she wrote for them almost 40 years earlier. Interestingly enough, Jones always wanted to add background vocals to the song and everyone knew that she would have been thrilled to know that some of her oldest and dearest friends had stopped by to sing with her one last time.
As for the single, is a meditative and slow-burning song focusing on how faith can sustain you in the most desperate and uneasy times of your life — and although I’m an atheist, I can say that the God that Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley believed in, seems like the sort of God you’d want to worship and have in your corner.
Featuring footage by Matt Rogers with additional camera work by Jessica Glass, the recently released video is a revealing and intimate look into the studio with Sharon Jones playing piano and earnestly singing the song as the Dap Kings play with her.