Tues May 17
Doug Fir Lounge
830 E Burnside
Sharon Jones is one of the fastest-rising R&B singers around. Her instrument and stage presence rival the greats: Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight. She's got moves, too. When Jones dances, audiences leap to their feet. She puts Ciara, Ashanti, Mya, and all those other so-called divas to shame.
But you won't see her videos on MTV2, or hear songs from her sophomore album, Naturally, on Jammin' 95.5. She doesn't promote her releases by posing for Maxim or Blender. No hair extensions, no cosmetic surgery, no personal trainer.
And the best part? Sharon Jones didn't even start her ascent until she'd passed an age when most artists are writing cookbooks and playing casinos.
Listening to Naturally, or the 2002 debut full-length, Dap Dippin' with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, one could easily mistake the James Brown-style riffs, horn blasts, and earthy vocals leaping off the grooves as artifacts from a bygone era. In fact, when many folks heard her breakout single, a gut-bucket-funky overhaul of "What Have You Done for Me Lately," they thought Janet Jackson had appropriated the song from her, not vice-versa.
Born in Augusta, Georgia--the same town that spawned James Brown--Jones' family moved to Brooklyn in her adolescence, and she began providing backing vocals, often sans credit, for assorted funk, disco, and gospel sessions. Wider success eluded her, and when tastes changed with the onset of the '80s, singing gigs dried up.
In 1996, she was discovered by the dusty-groove enthusiasts at indie funk imprint Desco Records, and issued a series of singles. Word began to spread. Nearly a decade of nonstop live gigs and low-budget tours later, she is finally seeing the dividends of nearly 50 years of dedication.
"It took me until I was in my 40s to be recognized and get heard," she explains, her voice inflected with joy. "A lot of my old friends, when I was finally coming up, they'd say, 'Oh, you're doing that old funk music. James Brown!' They laughed. But who's laughing now?"