The past couple of years have seen a wealth of good records from Raphael Saadiq, Fitz & the Tantrums, Mayer Hawthorne, and others working in the style of ’60s and ’70s soul and funk. But the best of these acts has been Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings.
Jones has been singing since the early ’70s but struggled for years to land work as a backup singer. For a while she held a day job as a corrections officer at New York’s Rikers Island prison. Her fortunes started to change in the late ’90s when she met with some of the musicians who would eventually found the great Daptone Records and its house band, the Dap-Kings. Over the next few years, the Dap-Kings would become some of the most in-demand session players in the world, especially after their work on Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. But the band seems to have found its collective soulmate in Jones, and vice versa.
The thing everyone says about Jones is that when she sings, you hear all her years of pain and disappointment and the toughness she needed to get through them. To paraphrase one of her songs, she learned the hard way. All that’s true, but onstage you also see the joy she takes in music and performing.
From a distance, it’s easy to say that Jones and the Dap-Kings are just revivalists, not contributing anything new. But you can’t see them onstage and think they aren’t 100 percent sincere and committed to the music. That quality transcends retro fashion. Maybe it transcends time.
SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS: House of Blues, Monday, November 21, 8 p.m. 619-299-2583. $27.50.