SHARON JONES: When You’re Young At Heart

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Videos by American Songwriter

Sharon Jones is sex defined. Her music is a rapturous blend of retrofitted soul and purebred funk. It’s filled with a warmth that brings back memories of eight tracks and block party barbeques. It’s G-rated stuff though, mostly-no explicit content stickers, here.

Sharon Jones is sex defined. Her music is a rapturous blend of retrofitted soul and purebred funk. It’s filled with a warmth that brings back memories of eight tracks and block party barbeques. It’s G-rated stuff though, mostly-no explicit content stickers, here.

Backed by the pre-Parliament washtub thump of her beloved Dap Kings, Ms. Jones occasionally busts out a full-throttled howl that’ll have you dredging up tween fondlings in the backseat of your parents’ Plymouth. That is, if you were born in Ward and June Cleaver’s household. There are also dishy tell-offs worthy of Diana Ross at her most Supreme.

In a ring tone generation, where R. Kelly slobbers a cabal of oversexed adjectives on unsuspecting female suitors in his latest exercise in narcissism, Double Up, the 50-year-old Jones may seem a little, well, quaint. (I mean, heck, R. Kelly even boasts a literal bedroom thumper called “Sex Planet.” You walk away from his latest release wanting to give yourself a good bath.) Meanwhile, Ms. Jones has already been told that she’s too old, of course.

“I went through all my life with them telling me, ‘Oh, you have a great voice, but you don’t have the look…They told me that I was too dark-skinned, too short and too fat,” Jones said in an early July phone interview with American Songwriter. After she rattled off a list of music biz buzzwords, Jones paused for the kicker:

“And then once I passed twenty-something, they told me that I was ‘too old,'” she added.

You can almost feel her smirking as she kicks back in her mother’s Brooklyn apartment. Frankly, Ms. Jones is having a well-deserved last laugh. “I felt that God gave me a gift and that one of these days people were gonna accept me for who I am,” she surmised.

Perhaps the music video bloc on Black Entertainment Television’s 106 & Park could use a dose of Ms. Jones’ old school sexual healing. Her forthcoming release on Daptone Records, 100 Days, 100 Nights, could be their Cliffs Notes for the libido.

A quick primer: Jones, the high priestess of funk, took us back to the mothership with 2005’s Naturally, triggering the robo-hipsters in foisting Prefix Magazine-ready comparisons such as “the heir descendent of the Meters” and the plebian “female James Brown” in Ms. Jones and the Dap Kings’ direction. (The insufferable gatekeepers of cool, Pitchfork Media, even denoted Naturally with a respectable score of 8.7 out of 10.)

Soon thereafter, Ms. Jones-with the Dap Kings cut their teeth as musical guests with Jones’ rendition of the funky chicken on NBC’s Late Night with Conan O’ Brien. As for the Dap Kings themselves, their testimony to the Lawd Jaysus and sweat-funk groove garnered the praises of tastemaking whippersnappers almost half their age, namely Kanye West and Amy Winehouse. Frankly, if it weren’t for the Dap Kings, Winehouse would’ve still been in pop music rehab. Jones said that 100 Days, 100 Nights might mark a departure from the bass-heavy rhythms of Naturally. “Some people have told me that 100 Days, 100 Nights is slower,” Jones said.

It could be true. On “When the Other Foot Drops, Uncle,” Jones bends her notes over the Dap Kings’ bare-knuckled blues shuffle. But it’s her voice, front and center-not partaking in the rat-a-tat-tat herky jerky of say, Naturally‘s “This Land Is Your Land” cover-that really keeps 100 Days, 100 Nights cooking.

Jones is probably still “too old” by Simon Cowell standards, but her thundering voice commands you to pay attention. Ageism be damned. Before Ms. Jones signs off, she tells American Songwriter about her walk-on appearance in the new Denzel Washington flick, The Great Debaters. “Oh Lord, let me tell you…” she said, obviously smitten about working with the Denzel.

So could acting be in Ms. Jones’ future? “When I’m on that stage performing, I think that’s a little bit like acting,” Jones said.


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