Photos by Nick Tomecek
This record is one delicious Christmas pie I want to devour slice by slice.
I wasn’t familiar with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings before purchasing “It’s a Holiday Soul Party,” and now I’m ready to get down at a Christmas party and light a menorah like it’s going out of style. The funk and soul holiday record released in 2015 is the most desired dessert on the table, and I’m only sorry my past two Christmases suffered its absence.
I’ve learned two things while writing this that I think you should know before I dive into the album.
One, the incredible vocalist for which the band is named, Sharon Jones, died in 2016. Thank you for this music, Sharon, and rest in peace. Two, the Dap-Kings performed with Sturgill Simpson at the 2017 Grammy Awards Ceremony.
That said, I hope the revivalist group continues to make music, because I adore every track on “It’s a Holiday Soul Party.” Now, calling all funk lovers everywhere — this one’s for you.
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings surprised me with the opening track, “8 Days (of Hanukkah).” Frankly, I wasn’t expecting them to start off “talkin’ about the menorah,” as Jones sings, but I love they kicked things off with a Jewish holiday that chronologically precedes Christmas.
The song is equally as funky as it is inclusive. Go check out the lyric video on YouTube, because the imagery rocks. The soulful vocals and swaying rhythms set a dangerously high precedent for the remainder of the record, which the group meets song for song with ease.
The band follows it up with my favorite track, “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects.”
Momma sat me down and said baby
Santa Claus does magic things
As soon as you’re asleep a chimney will appear
And in the morning you will see all he brings
— “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects”
To me, this is the breakout song of the record. I think it brings home the band’s revival of the ‘70s and pays homage to musicians of the era. It also features the charming storytelling I crave in holiday music and a delightful cartoon music video. There is a sweet message at the end, but you will just have to listen yourself.
Other notables are the group’s upbeat version of “White Christmas,” bluesy take on “Silent Night” and another stand-out song, “Big Bulbs.” This track zeroes in on harmonies and catchy lyrics in a way that will win over any listener.
The 12-inch LP also came with a 7-inch record highlighting the group’s incredible horn section. Score. I’ll second that victorious notion, because it comes on green-colored vinyl and with a super snazzy, retro album cover.
This record is no afterthought. It’s not a holiday record released to take advantage of cheerful fans, check off a bucket list or capitalize on Christmas spending.
Jones gives it sass, and her full vocals are smooth like molasses. I imagine she was the kind of singer you didn’t need to ask for a second take. Try again, said no one ever.
This Christmas dessert hits the spot. The production quality, arrangements and lyrics will bring you joy year-round.
Red cardigan - Merona, Target
Sweater, skirt and boots - Forever 21