When Sharon Jones was eight or nine years old, her father took her to see James Brown. The Godfather of Soul made an indelible impression. Decades later, Jones told NPR that she believed she never saw the man’s shoes touch the stage floor — she thought Brown was levitating. This was during the 1960s, a time when Jones was beginning to sing in gospel choirs and when pop, soul, and R&B records were burning themselves into her memory. In 1968, the Stax label sound was omnipresent and was distinguishable from Motown by the street-level grit and testosterone of Stax’s mostly male roster that included icons like Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes.
Jones would revive this trademark Stax sound years later with a band called the Dap-Kings and in time become famous enough to be invited to answer questions on public radio. Jones — who is not Motown girl-band material — fits right in with the Stax sound of old. She has in fact been compared to James Brown, and in all due respect, she brings it like a man.
When you hear authenticity on the level of Sharon Jones, you know that she’s paid her dues. Musical dues, yes, singing side gigs for years before catching a midlife break in the 1990s. But the smoke in Jones’s voice comes from having paid life dues. For years she worked as a prison guard in New York before getting enough steady band work to be able to leave that day job. By 2002, Jones & the Dap-Kings were firing on all cylinders and gaining positive reviews with true-to-form originals and solid covers of long-forgotten favorites by the likes of Eddie Bo or Bobby Williams. There is no better soul revival band at the moment than Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. She’s nailed the concept. But, can she levitate?
- Sunday, June 27, 2010, 9 p.m.
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