STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
One listen to the rhythm, feeling, energy and vintage soul sound of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, and you just know it’s the real deal.
The 11-piece band has been on tour all summer long with the roots music groove machine that is Tedeschi Trucks Band. The “Wheels of Soul Tour” comes to the Mann Center Aug. 2, and also features a set by Doyle Bramhall II.
In conversation, Jones comes across as genuine as her singing voice. “I always try to be straight up and tell what’s in (my) heart,” she said in a phone interview.
Even after six acclaimed albums with the Dap-Kings; a Grammy nomination; numerous TV appearances and a steadily growing fan base from vigorous international touring for more than a decade, Jones remains humble and isn’t shy about confessing that she’s neither glamorous, nor wealthy. It was only in 2010, after she recorded the duet “Baby (You Got What It Takes)” with Michael Bublé on an album of his, “that allowed me to get a house for my mother down south,” she said. Jones’ mom had still been living in the projects in Augusta, Ga.
“I would love to see a million dollars. I would love to have a nice home,” said Jones, whose band records for the Brooklyn independent Daptone Records label.
It’s not because of lack of hard work that she doesn’t have those things, though. Jones’ schedule with the band is so active that the 59-year-old cancer survivor sometimes has difficulty keeping track of what city she’s in, or which radio or TV outlet she’s interviewing on.
One reason it gets so busy is because beyond their own records and performances, other artists seek out Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings for their distinct, classic R&B band sound. The secret, Jones said, is having everyone in the band — which goes back to 1996, when they were The Soul Providers — on board with resisting the temptation to transform the analog mid-’60s to mid-’70s sound into something new. Even when a member leaves the group, the replacement musician must fit the chemistry in the existing band, and be able to sufficiently play a groove that Jones can sing along to in her impassioned style.
One example of the desirability of the Dap-Kings, an all-star assemblage from the defunct Desco Records indie label, is they were called upon to back Amy Winehouse on her “Back to Black” album.
Jones met the singer just twice. “She was so frail because she was drinking at that time, and I remember thinking: ‘She better get better’,” Jones recalled of an encounter in London.
She remembered Winehouse saying, “All I wanna do is be a wife and have children,” even though Winehouse confided that she wasn’t ready for either one.
“That young lady — such talent, such a loss. I wish I could’ve been there,” said Jones, who overcame addiction issues of her own in 1999 — something the singer said she does not like to talk about, but for some reason, mentioned it in this interview.
In the 2014 recording industry documentary “Hitmakers” on PBS, Jones said that people in the business were forever passing her over for being too old, too short or too dark-skinned. Although she could gloat and rub her success in their faces now, she says, “You can’t be hateful and have hurt in your heart.”
Susan Tedeschi and her husband, former Allman Brothers Band guitarist Derek Trucks, also appeared in “Hitmakers,” however they had never met Jones until May. Jones remembered being impressed with their band right away, jumping on stage with them for a performance of Etta James’ “Tell Mama” and a Sly and the Family Stone song during a Central Park SummerStage concert in New York. She hinted that there could be some similar musical fireworks at the Philly show.
In a press release about the “Wheels of Soul” concert at the Mann, Tedeschi said: “Sharon is really soulful and sweet and we know a lot of the Dap-King guys through different projects. There’s a lot to look forward to — and who knows — maybe we’ll all get up and play together. The wheels of creativity are turning at all times; it should be fun and could be epic.”
When asked about the influence of gospel music, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and the “Soul Train” TV show on her singing, Jones said, “I imitate everyone, and I do a good job of it too.” She remembered being inspired by Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Philadelphia native Patti LaBelle along the way.
IF YOU GO
What: “Wheels of Soul Tour” with Tedeschi Trucks Band, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, and Doyle Bramhall II.
When: 6 p.m. Aug. 2.
Where: Mann Center for the Performing Arts, 5201 Parkside Ave., Philadelphia.
Info.: Visit www.manncenter.org or call (800) 745-3000.