Sharon Jones

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<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5
Sharon Jones

Photograph by Alexander Thompson

Sharon Jones has the funk. We don't mean disco, R&B or that cute Muzak they call neosoul. This mama's got a brand-old bag, and it's the one James Brown used to carry. Listening to Jones's new album, Dap Dippin' with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, is like stepping into a time machine, and the impression is even stronger at her shows: The singer and the eight-piece Dap-Kings look and sound like a JB tribute group, complete with suits and overheated introductions—except they play originals penned by bassist and bandleader Bosco Mann. "People swear my stuff is from the '70s," Jones says, with no small satisfaction. "But we started the band maybe eight years ago."

Like Brown, Jones was born in Augusta, Georgia. Her single mom moved to New York, kids in tow, and young Sharon grew up in Brooklyn (she now lives in Far Rockaway). She began singing in church and has worked as a singer most of her life. She makes her living on the wedding circuit, but what she likes best is to perform the music she grew up with.

Jones, who's an incredibly well-preserved 46, can work a room with an energy women half her age would envy, and the band follows her every digression with ease. "Those guys never know what I'm gonna do onstage," she exclaims proudly. "They just follow me." Shows can stretch to a couple of frenzied hours as the singer makes up lyrics and prompts everyone in the audience, no matter how flatfooted, into dancing. "Sometimes I don't even feel like myself," she says with a laugh. "Something comes over me."

While Jones displays the requisite bluster when she performs, she remains modest as to her position in the funk firmament. "My biggest goal is to meet James Brown and [JB funky diva] Marva Whitney," she confesses. "If it wasn't for them, you wouldn't be hearing about me right now. And anyway, it's not even about me: It's all about the funk."

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings play Village Underground June 14, 2002.

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