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Revival and trial for a soul queen

Album, film brighten Sharon Jones' days.

More than a decade after her first recordings, 51-year-old soul queen Sharon Jones is enjoying a long-overdue moment in the sun. The Augusta, Ga., native and avowed James Brown disciple celebrated the October release of her new album,

100 Days, 100 Nights

, with her own live at the Apollo gig, jammed with Booker T. & the MG's, and backed up Lou Reed's live replication of his legendary album,


. Still to come is a role in Denzel Washington's

The Great Debaters

, as a 1930s juke-joint singer belting out Bessie Smith songs. Sadly, her one spoken line didn't make the final cut. "I got to get the DVD for that," she says in a phone interview.

Then there's the matter of a certain rapidly imploding British soul singer. Amy Winehouse has cited Jones as a major influence, and thought enough of her impeccable '60s-soul sound to nab her band, the Dap-Kings, to back her both live and on record (including both of her hit singles). Winehouse's touring schedule left Jones temporarily bandless, but the exposure has done her nothing but good.

"People are like, 'Dap-Kings who?' " she says. "Then they're like, 'Wow.' They can't mention Amy Winehouse without mentioning me, so that's a good thing."

Personally, Jones has had a much rougher time. She counts 22 friends and family who have died in the last year, beginning with James Brown and including her brother, and she took some time off from performing to help her mother recover from a stroke. "I've been reading about all the good stuff and great things, but I've been having some real trials and tribulations," she says.

But since the release of 100 Days, with its flawless (but not slavish) evocation of classic Stax and Motown recordings, things have been looking up. And Jones is pleased to note that vintage vogue has spread beyond college students and record collectors to older audiences and hip-hop artists like Jay-Z and Ghostface Killah.

"I think everyone is coming around," she says, "and I'm glad we held on."