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Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings

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Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings return to Perth to play at the Astor Theatre on Monday-Tuesday, September 8-9. AUGUSTUS WELBY reports.

Initially due out in August last year, the release of Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings’ fifth LP, Give The People What They Want, was halted when the group’s forceful frontwoman was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

This news sent waves of panic into the music community, but from the outset Jones spoke confidently about defeating the illness and getting back to business.

Accordingly, after the singer persevered through surgery and six months of preventative chemotherapy, Give The People What They Want was unveiled in January. Rather than slowly easing back in, a massive tour coincided with the album’s release. And it basically hasn’t ceased.

“My job is being a singer and an entertainer so I’ve got to get back out and entertain,” says Jones. “I’m able to get out right now and really enjoy it. I don’t really feel anything as far as pain and sickness. I actually feel stronger.”

Starting with 2002’s debut LP Dap Dippin’, Jones and The Dap-Kings are basically responsible for bringing the sound of ’60s/’70s soul and funk music into 21st century relevance. Give The People What They Want is yet another trailblazing triumph, but Jones casually downplays the band’s impeccable track record.

“There’s just songs sounding good, coming out, each one,” she says. “I mean, we don’t think. Each time we do an album it’s because people are writing songs and we just play it and make stories. We’re telling our story. We’re not thinking about how we’re going to make this next album better. Don’t try thinking about bettering yourself, just do what you do best.”

As well as extrapolating the ups and downs of love, lyrically all five albums promote positive will and fortitude. Jones’ cancer was detected after the Give The People What They Want recording sessions, so her struggle isn’t specifically addressed on the album. However, it’s still an exposition of determined strength.

“When I’m going to put my mind to something I do my best, especially when it comes to singing,” she says. “I’ve always felt that God gives me gifts. My singing is a blessing. Anything I get involved with – with my choir, with the wedding band, with just doing studio work with someone – I’ve always just been like that. This is what I can do; when I’m doing it I’m going to do it well.”

On Give The People What They Want, Jones and The Dap-Kings continue to draw prominently from the heyday of funk and soul music. Authentically reapplying this sound is impressive in itself. The fact that the band’s steadfast stylistic allegiance hasn’t grown tired over the course of five records is an even greater marvel.

“This is what we created,” Jones says. “I think that’s why we’re succeeding at what we’re doing. We’re not trying to jump around and do all this other kind of stuff. You just do your thing, be who you are, and I’m a soul singer. I’m not a pop singer. I don’t want to try to get out here and sound like some of these kids out here singing nowadays.”

Later this month Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings return to Australia to give the people what they want in a range of dancehall settings. The group was here as recently as January 2013 and a truly revitalised Jones can’t wait to reconnect with Australian audiences.

“When we come there everyone is so appreciative of our music. They enjoy it and they want it. I look forward to coming there every time the opportunity comes up. It’s so good when you’re doing your stuff and you can see how much love and care that the people have for what you’re doing.

“That’s the high, that’s the energy, that’s what keeps you going. That’s what makes you want to do more.”

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