Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings: It's A Holiday Soul Party

Retro-soul crew puts its funky spin on the Yuletide season

Credit: Jacob Blickenstaff

Holiday albums are a longstanding pop tradition, from crooners like Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole taking on "O Holy Night" to more modern reinventions by Willie Nelson, James Brown and Bob Dylan. Now, following up their Grammy-nominated 2014 LP, Give the People What They Want, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings have brought their old-school soul to the party. This is a playful and funky 11-track set, filled with both originals and unique takes on traditional Yuletide standards, with rich melodies and arrangements courtesy of the Dap-Kings. "Ain't No Chimneys in the Projects," a pointed piece of holiday-themed social commentary original released in 2009, takes its merry place alongside newer tunes like "Big Bulbs" and "8 Days (Of Hanukkah)," all with swinging horns and Jones’s singing superbly backed by girl-group harmonies. Throbbing bass lines and tight drum breakdowns assist up-tempo songs like "Funky Little Drummer Boy."  "White Christmas" leans more toward Ike & Tina's "Proud Mary" than Bing Crosby, and their stirring rendition of "Silent Night," with its bluesy guitar and back-up vocals, is just one of several interpretations that breathe surprising new life into old carols. (Who knew you could dance to "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman"?) Homer Steinweiss, drummer for Menahan Street Band and the Dap-Kings, contributes a song of his own with "Just Another Christmas Song," a witty, groovy toe-tapper about succumbing to the holiday spirit. This is a perfect party record for those who reach for Phil Spector over Johnny Mathis.