Sharon Jones often hears people remark that "nobody makes good soul music anymore." She's got a message for those people: "We do."

Sharon Jones often hears people remark that "nobody makes good soul music anymore." She's got a message for those people: "We do."

Jones and the band she plays with, the Dap-Kings, have been churning out deliciously rich, retro-tinged, funk-influenced soul since the mid-'90s. But in one of those cruel twists of fate that seem so common to the music biz, it wasn't until the much-hyped -- and much younger -- British neo-soul singer Amy Winehouse used the Dap-Kings as her backing band on sophomore smash "Back to Black" that the industry at large really took notice of Jones and her longtime collaborators.

But the warm, big-hearted Jones isn't holding any grudges. "Some people have been trying to start a fight between me and Amy. A lot of the media have been trying to set it up that way. But I give thanks to Amy," she says. "Me and the band were moving on up on our own and we've gotten plenty of places -- but she put us in that mainstream."

Jones also has nothing but kind words for Mark Ronson, the "Back to Black" producer who brought the Dap-Kings to Winehouse's attention. "He knew what kind of sound he wanted for her and he knew where to find it," Jones says. "It was our sound they needed."

Jones started singing, as so many of the great soul singers do, when she was a young girl in church. Although she lived in New York with her mother most of the time, Jones spent third grade in the South with her father. That year, Jones says, "My sisters made me play an angel at church at Christmas. They made me a halo and wings and I sang ‘Silent Night' and people said, ‘That little girl can sing.' I knew since then I had it in me."

Throughout the late '70s and '80s Jones searched for her big break, but never quite got it. "I was always told I was too dark-skinned, I was too fat and, once I was past 25, I was too old," she recalls.

She worked odd jobs to make ends meet, including a two-year stint at New York's Rikers Island prison and four years as an armed security guard for Wells Fargo.

The musical horizon finally brightened for Jones in 1995 when she met Bosco Mann (a.k.a. Gabriel Roth) — producer, bassist for the Dap-Kings and co-founder of Daptone Records. He was looking for a singer for the band to back, and she was looking for a band. Jones says she initially wondered whether the "young white boys" of the Dap-Kings could really get down, but when she heard them play, her jaw "hit the floor. They had it," she says, and they've been working their funky soul magic together ever since.

Thrilling live shows and two full-length releases — 2002's "Dap Dippin' with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings" and 2005's "Naturally" — gained the group a dedicated following. But it's their new "100 Days, 100 Nights," released Oct. 2, that is taking Jones and her crew to the next level. The album earned Jones her first chart ink, debuting at No. 3 on Top Heatseekers and No. 194 on The Billboard 200.

The results have Jones floating on a natural high. "I've been out here doing this a long time. I'm 51 now, so it's nice to know I'm finally getting heard in the mainstream. I'm just really excited," she gushes. "This project with the Dap-Kings is 12 years in the making, and all we've wanted is to be recognized."

Kevin Wortis, co-founder of World's Fair Entertainment, which manages Daptone Records, says there's no reason Jones "can't be a new star at 51. She's got the soul, she's got the talent. And the industry is changing. Sharon was always told she didn't fit the model. But the model has shifted," Wortis says. "The industry has had to shift to survive, and what matters now is finding artists that resonate. And that includes Sharon."

Wortis says he and Daptone will keep the momentum going by having Jones and the Dap-Kings stay on the road well into 2008. The group is currently in Europe, but returns to the States in November for a cross-country tour.

Jones is also acting and singing in a new Denzel Washington-directed movie called "The Great Debaters," which is due out on Christmas Day.

And don't be surprised to see Jones on daytime TV soon, too. Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films produced "The Great Debaters," and Jones says she now has her eye on the TV talk queen's show. "I'm praying that I get to meet Oprah. I want her to hear me singing. That's my next goal."

But Jones isn't stopping there. "I'm going to do this till my body can't do this no more," she says. "I've just got to." Amen.