Kanye West does it. Ditto Christina Aguilera. Going retro is nothing new. Musicians are always channeling artists from the past or sampling beats in order to furnish their latest singles with that extra swig of credibility.

Soul singer Sharon Jones is no stranger to vintage reverberations – not because she’s a throwback artist, though she falls in the classification, but simply because that’s the only type of music she knows. Accompanied by her eight-piece James Brown–inspired band, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings are proving that funk is still alive and well.

Growing up in the 1960s, Jones could be found listening to soul legends like the Godfather of Soul, Tina Turner, the Supremes and Otis Redding. While pursuing a musical career, she worked as a wedding singer and, of all things, a corrections officer at Sing Sing prison in New York. Her unique, vintage-flavored vocals, meanwhile, proved to be an acquired taste for modernity-obsessed music moguls. “I ain’t trying to do no hip-hop. I’m too old for that,” Jones says. “I decided to do something that I’m good at, and that’s soul.” Her smooth yet fervent style eventually helped Jones secure a place with Desco Records. Jones finally released her debut album, Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings in 2002 – when Jones was in her mid-40s.

Their latest album, 100 Days, 100 Nights, is a breath of fresh air, a move-your-feet and shake-your-hips soundtrack. It’s the kind of album you want to listen to at full volume while getting ready for a night on the town.

“`With` this one, we went for more of a scat sound … more of, you know, ’68-’69 soul.”

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings’ new-revival sound even inspired a certain British retro-pop star (and current trainwreck) to snag the Dap-Kings as her touring band last year. “Amy `Winehouse` was influenced by me, as I found out. `She` wanted my sound so bad that Mark `Ronson, music producer` came and got the Dap-Kings,” Jones says. “Amy’s trying to sound like she’s from the ’60s. I’m from the ’60s.” But don’t expect any bitterness from Jones. “`Winehouse` did us a good favor by putting the Dap-Kings out there.”

2007 also found the soul sensation gaining notoriety with Hollywood’s biggest players. Their slow-burning “You’re Gonna Get It,” was featured in Waitress and Jones herself appeared in the Oprah-produced The Great Debaters and lent her impressive vocal talents to the film’s bluesy soundtrack.

When it comes to their stage show, Jones says, “You come out, you gonna have a good time. You’re not going to stand there. You gonna move some kind of way. You gonna go home with something to talk about.”

More by Rebecca Mercurio


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