Why Sharon Jones is the new face of old soul music
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings aim to revive old-school soul music in the US. The Dap-Kings were hired to play on Amy Winehouse's album while Jones dominates the soundtrack of "The Great Debaters." Now, a breakthrough may be imminent.
America's answer to Amy Winehouse may just be a former wedding singer whose résumé includes a lengthy stint as a prison guard. Atlanta-born Sharon Jones is a decade or two older than Winehouse, but the big-voiced African-American singer is doing her part to revive old-school soul music – and she's doing it without emulating Winehouse's tabloid-magnet antics.Skip to next paragraph
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Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are the biggest act for indie Daptone Records, an artist-run company modeled on the Stax label that produced much of the best soul music of the '60s. It is no coincidence that Winehouse tapped the Dap-Kings – an eight piece band decked out in suits and sunglasses – to play on her "Back to Black" album and US tour. "[They're] soul nerds to the core," cackles Jones in a recent phone interview.
Following a high-profile appearance as a singer in the Denzel Washington movie, "The Great Debaters," Jones and the constantly touring band have their hands on the wheel and hope to steer listeners to a new place on the musical spectrum that looks and sounds very much like the old one once dominated by Aretha and Otis.
"There's definitely more success in her future – maybe even a top 40 hit – but I think it'll be driven by the fans rather than major-label marketing," says Bryan Borzykowski, a contributing editor for UR Magazine, a new music publication.
During a recent tour date here at the campus of Florida State University, guitar player and MC Binky Griptite introduced Jones "as the brightest star in the Daptone universe" just before she began to power through the night like a supernova.
Menacing and seductive, she brought young men onto a tiny stage, flirted with them, and sent them away with a queenly wave of her hand. From time to time, Jones, who has obviously seen a James Brown show or two, kicked off her heels and did all the dancing for everybody.