NPR logo First Listen: Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings

First Listen: Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings

Audio for this feature is no longer available. The album was released on Apr. 6, 2010.

Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings. Laura Hanifin hide caption

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Laura Hanifin

Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings.

Laura Hanifin

Anyone who's seen Sharon Jones command a stage can speak to her supreme confidence and power as a live performer: When she and her Dap-Kings played NPR Music's SXSW showcase on March 17 — click here to listen to the show and here to download a podcast — the vibe was intense and electric. At a music-industry conference dominated by curious-to-indifferent crowds, Jones toyed with her audience from the first note to the last.

As a studio artist, Jones tends to let that white-knuckle showmanship give way to slick, polished proficiency. With a remarkable arsenal at her disposal — the Daptone studios' vintage analog equipment, the Dap-Kings' legendary horn section — Jones spends her new album, I Learned the Hard Way, presiding over a string of confident and universally appealing soul ballads. Full of mid-tempo laments in which she yearns for love, fidelity and money, the album seems engineered for maximum timelessness. It succeeds mightily.

I Learned the Hard Way will be available for streaming here in its entirety until its release on April 6. Please leave your thoughts on the album in the comments section below.

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