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Published: Thursday, 11/3/2005

High-energy soul: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings to groove in the Underground

BY ROD LOCKWOOD
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings perform Saturday in the Underground, which is in the basement of Club Bijou, 209 North Superior St. Tickets are $12. Doors open at 8 p.m.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings perform Saturday in the Underground, which is in the basement of Club Bijou, 209 North Superior St. Tickets are $12. Doors open at 8 p.m.
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When Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings hit the stage, time spins backward to an era when soul music was paramount.

The beats are real and there are no drum machines in sight. The band members wear suits and ties, conveying classy cool. And they play with an earthy, tightly wound, horn-driven intensity, unadorned by dancers doing aerobic gyrations that may or may not have anything to do with the music.

Then there s Jones, a mighty force who channels James Brown straight out of Augusta, Ga. She s about 5 feet of pure energy with a voice that s forever in that sacred groove where gospel and old-school soul merge.

What we do is what they did in the late 60s and 70s, when James Brown and the JBs played at the Apollo [in Harlem], Jones said in a phone interview from her Queens, N.Y., home. He put on a show and that s what we do. When I m up there, I m giving 110 percent, 150 percent, and I break it down.

I don t have 15 or 20 naked dancers on the stage where everybody is doing the same thing and the same moves.

Jones and the band made a stop in Toledo earlier this year in a show that was relentlessly fun and funk, focusing on the band s R&B-oriented sound. They ll be back for another one at the Underground Saturday night.

Onstage, Jones is a dynamo who comes by her Brown influences honestly. Her family is from Augusta, which also is the hometown of the Godfather of Soul. While she spent most of her youth growing up in New York, she and her sisters visited Augusta in the summers, soaking up the southern soul.

I used to imitate him a lot when I was a kid. That whole presence I have when I m singing it s like an omen, she said, noting that when she sees video of herself performing, she sometimes wonders where her moves are coming from.

I watch myself and think, Whoa, I didn t know I do that, she said.

Her life story is similar to that of many soul singers. She grew up singing in church and with her sisters, harmonizing on everything from Silent Night to Jackson Five songs.

About 10 years ago, she hooked up with the Dap-Kings and they performed at weddings and in bars around New York, refining a sound that has been featured on two albums on the Daptones label, Naturally (2004) and Dap Dippin (2002).

A performance on Late Night With Conan O Brien earlier this year brought the band national attention and it tours regularly throughout Canada, the United States, and Europe.

It hasn t always been easy. Jones, 49, said she heard more than a few harsh criticisms early in her career from music industry insiders who tried to dissuade her by telling her she s too dark, too short, and too old.

It didn t work.

I m still dark-skinned, I m still short, and I m even older now, Jones said. That hurt, but I knew my voice was going to shine and now it s my time. That s my blessing.

Jones said she never tires, no matter how many sweaty performances she squeezes out of her petite frame, turning songs like the Woody Guthrie standard This Land is Your Land into an urban funk protest anthem or revving up the poppy soul of How Long Do I Have to Wait For You, both from Naturally.

I say this over and over again: It s a gift God gave me. I m 49 and to get out there and have that energy, it s just a gift.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings perform Saturday in the Underground, which is in the basement of Club Bijou, 209 North Superior St. Tickets are $12. Doors open at 8 p.m.

Contact Rod Lockwood at: rlockwood@theblade.com or 419-724-6159.



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