For years, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings have been experts at recreating the sound and feel of vintage soul and funk — so much so that when producer Mark Ronson wanted something in that vein for Amy Winehouse's Back to Black, he went to the Dap-Kings. But if Dap-Kings bassist and main songwriter Gabriel Roth has a command of older styles, it's as much due to the material he writes as knowing which equipment sounds warmest.
Something similar applies to Jones herself. Winehouse's persona is raw and impulsive, but on 100 Days, 100 Nights, her third album, Jones sings as a voice of experience: the relationships are written as lived-in even as they're ending, as on “Something's Changed,” and songs like “Be Easy” and “When the Other Foot Drops, Uncle” offer advice (don't push too hard, shape up or else wind up alone) among their snazzy horn charts. 100 Days, 100 Nights is smoother than the prior Dap-Kings albums; Jones's singing is more comfortable than ever. Sometimes it's a bit too easy, and the words don't always help: “Once I had a good man/ A good man, once he had me,” from “Keep on Looking,” isn't a promising beginning of anything, especially when it rhymes with, “Made me sing sweet melodies.”
But this is a groove band first, and it's when the band revs up and Jones rides the rhythm that they move from acceptable substitute to where's the dance floor? Jones shines on uptempo material, like the second half of both “Keep on Looking” and “100 Days, 100 Nights,” as well as the high-stepping march of “Tell Me” and the funky “Nobody's Baby,” which recalls late-'60s Stax. So, in a way, does “Answer Me,” which features the singer's most committed performance. It's a straight-up gospel song, and it hints that Jones and the Dap-Kings have more depth than a casual listener might expect: that they can capture Sunday morning as well as they do Saturday night.