On the standalone single, ‘I’m Still Here’, released last year as part of the ‘Miss Sharon Jones!’ documentary soundtrack, Sharon Jones delivered what will be probably be her definitive statement in a single song. In it, she tells the tale of how she got to where she’s at. It’s a myth-making song that addresses the stories that surrounded her when she first emerged as part of the Neo-Soul revival of the early noughties:

“I had to work as a prison guard telling men to do what they were told / 'Cos some record label told me I was too fat, too short, black and old / I had to direct the choir to let my voice out / That was the only place I could sing and be proud”

Of course, it also address “the big C”, the multiple cancer diagnoses which had plagued her since 2013, causing a delay in the release of her fifth album, Give The People What They Want, and leading to defiant live shows where she performed whilst bald, the side effect of extensive courses of chemotherapy.

“But I’m still here,” she sang, with steely resolve. Until, of course, she wasn’t here anymore. In the ultimate indignity, that’s proof positive of this world’s unfeeling cruelty, Jones suffered a stroke as she watched Donald Trump win the US election. She passed away just over a week later, and the musical world lost one of its most enigmatically vitalising figures.

All of which brings us to Soul of a Woman, an album recorded by someone well aware that death was coming for her. And yet, it does not bear the marks of mortality and impending doom in the same way that, say, Bowie’s death-suffused Blackstar does. If anything, on the surface of things, Soul of a Woman feels like business as usual for Sharon Jones and her Dap-Kings. All of her classic lyrical concerns return (y’know, relationships with questionable dudes, that kind of thing), she’s still as startlingly optimistic as ever (see the delightful, Curtis Mayfield-channeling ‘Come Be A Winner’), and there’s that voice of hers: a veritable force of nature. And, of course, this is all backed impeccably by the super-retro, uber-authentic, warmly analogue, funk and soul band, The Dap-Kings, who sprinkle the album liberally with grin-inducing musical flourishes. I defy you to listen to this and not involuntarily hurl yourself onto the nearest dance floor.

Admittedly, it’s not all soulful sass and tales of love on the rocks to a hip-swinging soundtrack. There is an overriding, and deceptively moving, preoccupation with time throughout Soul of a Woman. It’s surely no accident that the title of the opening number, ‘Matter of Time’, brings to mind the inevitable encroachment of death. Sure, it’s a song which imagines that a Utopian, idealist society awaits us all beyond all this strife and struggle, but every time Jones repeats that phrase, it’s like a sucker punch to the #feels. Regardless, ‘Matter of Time’ is quintessential Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, the kind of song you just have to agree with: “Oh yeah!” There's no room for maybes here.

Beyond this, the spectre of time rears its head on ‘Just Give Me Your Time’, which could either be read as a plea to a lover for more attention, or to God for a few more weeks, months, years to, well, live. On the impossibly bright and breezy, ‘Come and Be A Winner’, Jones’ opening conversational gambit is “Seems like you've been wasting time/Trying to find your place in life.” Ouch. ‘Searching for a New Day’ sees Jones lamenting, “where did all the good times go?” but resolving to fight on. It all comes to an emotional head on album closer, ‘Call on God’, an abridged version of a bonus track to 2010’s I Learned The Hard Way. It’s a stunning finale; a kind of gospel ‘Everybody Hurts’ that replaces Stipe’s universal empathy with, well, God’s omnipresent guidance. Jones declares that she “made up [her] mind to be with Him all the time.” In life, this suggested faithful devotion to a higher power. Now, it sounds like they’re going to be hanging out for eternity. We envy you, big guy. The song ends to the sound of a knowing chuckle from Jones. It’s a disarming, lump-in-your-throat moment.

The album feels curiously short, almost as if it were intended as a metaphor for Jones’ life - i.e. over too soon - and yet, it doesn’t feel slight. The Dap-Kings cover their full stylistic range, from funky jams accented with almighty “HUH!”s like ‘Rumours’, to bombastically symphonic, emotional powerhouses like ‘These Tears (No Longer For You)’ or the Bond-theme calibre, ‘Girl (You Got to Forgive Him).’ There’s so much to enjoy here that you’ll overlook the lyrical cliches (they’re more like faithful adherence to genre conventions anyway) and forgive the fact that the brass figure that comes in at the conclusion to the otherwise melodically innovative, ‘When I Saw Your Face,’ sounds exactly like Carl Douglas’ ‘Kung Fu Fighting’. When all is said and done, Soul of a Woman cements itself as a fitting send-off for a woman who flat-out owned the stage and spearheaded a scene, transcending the notions of “neo” and “revival” to make music that was impassioned and pure. Sharon Jones lives on every time you press play.