By the sound of them, you would think Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings started making funk-threaded soul music together in the 1960s. Few devotedly retro acts are as convincing. Few singers as skilled as Sharon Jones at stuffing notes with ache and meaning might be willing to invest in a sound so fully occupied by the likes of Bettye LaVette and Tina Turner in the Ike years, too. But what Jones brings to the funkified table has legs of its own -- eight of them, to be exact -- and they belong to Binky Griptite, Bugaloo Velez, Homer Steinweiss, and Dave Guy -- her Dap-Kings.
Jones, like James Brown, was born in Augusta, Georgia; there she sang in her church choir, and from fellow parishioners picked up the kind of back-patting she needed to convince her to go mainstream. As a teenager, she moved with her family to Brooklyn, where she immersed herself in 1970s disco and funk with an eye toward cutting a record of her own. Instead, studios came calling and with them steady work -- by her twenties, Jones was turning in backup vocals for gospel, soul, disco, and blues artists, most of it uncredited. In the '80s, however, Jones' sound was deemed unfashionable, and instead of pushing ahead with her soul diva's dream she went back to church singing. She also took a job as a corrections officer at New York's Rikers Island.
It wouldn't be until 1996 that Desco Records would rediscover Jones' sweat-basted, lived-in talent. With that label's house band, the Soul Providers, Jones released several singles in the late '90s; their warmth and genuineness propelled the act across the Atlantic, and Jones picked up a moniker -- the queen of funk -- that stuck. Jones released her first full-length with the Dap-Kings, Dap Dippin' with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, after signing with Daptone Records in 2002. Years of touring behind it, as well as cutting singles with other artists (including Greyboy) ensued. In 2005, Jones re-teamed with the Dap-Kings for the winking groovefest that is Naturally, following it up two years later with 100 Days, 100 Nights. Jones also had a bit part in The Great Debaters as the singer Lila. A new studio effort, I Learned the Hard Way, appeared in 2010. ~ Tammy La Gorce, Rovi