Me & Ms Jones

Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings play the kind of se­duc­tive funk that pro­pelled them from small clubs to back­ing band slots on Mark Ron­son and Amy Wine­house’s al­bums. As Jones tells Jim Car­roll, their swift rise to fame cer­tainly beats strap­ping on a gun or

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

THE BEST thing? The best thing in the whole darn world for Miss Sharon Jones about all this hul­la­baloo, all th­ese tours and re­leases and ac­claim and act­ing gigs? The best thing is that singing is now her day job. Most likely, Jones won’t ever have to clock in for a shift as a guard at Sing Sing max­i­mum se­cu­rity prison in up­state New York again, or strap on a gun and ride around in a Wells Fargo ar­moured van. Why, she prob­a­bly won’t ever have to sing at a wed­ding again ei­ther.

“The last song I re­mem­ber do­ing at a wed­ding,” she says, “was a Jen­nifer Lopez song, Wait­ing for Tonight. That was the last one. I said ‘see ya’ af­ter that. I en­joyed do­ing it, it was a gig. We were the wed­ding band who had soul. We played old songs, songs that had stood the test of time. But when peo­ple started re­quest­ing the likes of Brit­ney Spears and Christina Aguil­era, I knew it was time for me to quit the wed­ding band game.”

By that stage, Jones has other things to oc­cupy her time. The soul singer, born in Au­gusta, Ge­or­gia, had spent her teen years scream­ing at James Brown and his soulmen when they played shows round her way ev­ery sum­mer. Now she was ready for her very own close-up.

Sure, she’d sung in bands for­ever (“I’ve sung with more neigh­bour­hood bands than any­one I know”) and spent more than 100 days and 100 nights in record­ing stu­dios. “I was on loads of al­bums do­ing back-up singing, I was on tracks which never saw the light of day.” But when a dude called Gabriel Roth came along and asked her to sing in his band, ev­ery­thing changed.

“I knew from the first time we all stood in a stu­dio that we had some­thing. I knew! No one else was do­ing what we were do­ing and it worked.” What The Dap-Kings do is quite sim­ple: play stone-cold clas­sic funk mu­sic with Jones as the queen­pin of that groove. The mu­sic may sound as if it was made four decades ear­lier, but this is no mu­seum ex­hibit, as any­one who have seen The Dap-Kings swing in a live room can tes­tify. This is the real deal.

Dap-Kings’ leader Roth has watched their au­di­ence grow and grow over the past 10 years. “It’s gone from 10 peo­ple at a gig to 100 to 1,000 over a cou­ple of years,” he says. “It didn’t hap­pen overnight. Peo­ple come out, check us out, dig it and tell their friends. Why? Well, I think it’s just a pos­i­tive re­ac­tion to hon­est mu­sic which has a lot of feel­ing in it. Peo­ple love Sharon, they re­ally re­act to her.

“I’ve never been that in tune or in touch with pop mu­sic. When I was a kid, I was hooked on blues and soul records rather than pop. But I don’t make judg­ments about pop peo­ple when they start dig­ging and ap­pre­ci­at­ing our sound. The cur­rent ebbs and flows and peo­ple re­act to dif­fer­ent things. Right now, there’s prob­a­bly a back­lash against pro­cessed sounds, so we’re in the right place at the right time.”

Jones is much more em­phatic about how much The Dap-Kings have al­ways stood out from the crowd.

“When we started, there was no one else do­ing what we were do­ing in New York. No one else was play­ing funk mu­sic like we were and man, it was hard. But we moved to Barcelona for a month and we played and played and played over there in a lit­tle club. We brought over our first CD and sold it to make money. We had a blast. And af­ter that, we knew what we were do­ing was right. We were con­vinced of it.”

Their cur­rent album, 100 Days, 100 Nights, is a good place to check them out. Ev­ery­thing about this, their third re­lease, is bang on the buck. You’ll note that Jones is a soul bel­ter rem­i­nis­cent of Marva Whit­ney, Fon­tella Bass and Betty LaVette. You’ll snap your fin­gers to the dusty grooves of The DapKings, an ensem­ble who know just how raw, clas­sic soul should sound. And you’ll most cer­tainly dig those songs, full of love and life and long­ing and heartache.

It was only a mat­ter of time, then, be­fore some in­flu­en­tial folks took a lik­ing to that sound and style. Pro­ducer Mark Ron­son, for in­stance, re­ally dug what The Dap-Kings were do­ing.

“Their sound is a lit­tle bit dirty and it’s a lit­tle bit off,” he en­thuses, “but I re­ally love the records they make.” He called on them to help with his Ver­sion album and to back up a singer named Amy Wine­house. The main­stream quickly got hip to what The DapKings were do­ing.

“We were un­der­ground and it took Amy and Mark to bring us into the lime­light,” says Jones. “Amy kept talk­ing about me and Mark came over to the Dap­tone stu­dio to record Back to Black there with the band. When Amy was up for six Grammy awards, peo­ple kept men­tion­ing us and that’s helped us hugely.”

Roth sees a dif­fer­ent ad­van­tage to the Ron­son and Wine­house buzz. “What they have done for us State­side is given a lot of our fans in the me­dia the chance to go to their edi­tors and pitch a story on us. We’ve had ma­jor na­tional cov­er­age here from peo­ple who have been fans for ages but have not had an an­gle to get the story in print or on air. Now, they can say to their edi­tors ‘Hey, we’ve got to cover th­ese guys, they’re the ones be­hind this Wine­house record that has sold a gazil­lion records’.”

That, too, has a knock-on pos­i­tive ef­fect for their fans. “They can point to all that cov­er­age and tell their friends that

we’re the same band. That kind of com­mu­nal con­scious­ness has worked re­ally well for us. If peo­ple be­lieve you’re fa­mous, well, then you are fa­mous.”

Jones has flour­ished in the lime­light. She yaps away about her lit­tle ol’ role as Lila in The Great De­baters along­side Den­zel Wash­ing­ton and For­est Whi­taker. She re­mem­bers with glee get­ting the call from Lou Reed to ap­pear in the stage pro­duc­tion of Ber­lin and ask­ing her man­ager if Reed had more tunes than that Walk on the Wild Side song. Yeah, she says, it has been a blast.

“It has helped my self-es­teem hugely. Like, last year was a bad year for me. Mu­si­cally, it was great but per­son­ally, I had a lot of close friends and fam­ily die on me, in­clud­ing my brother, who had a stroke. I heard that he had died be­fore I was due to go on­stage and sing. I couldn’t call it off, I had to do the show.

“So, thank God for things like The Great De­baters, and Amy and Mark. Yeah, I’d love to be up for an award like a Grammy, thank you, be­cause it means ev­ery­one liked it, but that’s not what it is about. I don’t need awards, I know I’m do­ing the right thing.

“The last 12 years have been amaz­ing. I’ve been in a movie, I get to play all around the world and I’m in loads of mag­a­zines and pa­pers. I’ve told the boys in the band that this is the last job I’ll ever do. We’re like Smokey Robin­son and Mo­town – we’re joined at the hip.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.