On Faithful Man, soul man Lee Fields explores the issues of the heart
With the exception of Al Green, most titans of soul and funk music – like Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield and James Brown to name a few – have sadly passed on and no longer influence today’s music with new works of genius. Instead, hip-hop as a musical form has taken the crown of pre-eminence in the train of soul- and groove-based music, with names like Kanye West, Nas and even ridiculous hologram incarnations of Tupac taking the limelight at major festivals and events. But as the vagaries of musical taste cycle around to rejuvenate the past, many of the lesser lights of funk and soul have emerged as popular acts. While Amy Winehouse and Duffy propelled the genre back into the mainstream, respect for old masters like Sharon Jones and Lee Fields has increased a thousand-fold. North Carolina’s Lee Fields, with his furious live performances and a critically lauded new full-length album, Faithful Man, is riding the wave.
"The current popularity for my music is very much, very much, appreciated by me," says Fields, reached at the NYC studio for his label, Truth & Soul. "I’m like a child in a candy store, like a kid on Christmas, for the people that are giving me so much love now. I’m so elated, so jubilated by what is taking place now, it’s like the sauce on the pig man."
While Fields’ 7" singles from the 70s had been highly coveted underground rarities for decades, his 2009 album My World achieved a level of popular appreciation in its time unprecedented by his earlier work. Despite Fields being a well-known soul act during the heyday of the scene in the 70s, touring with Kool and the Gang, Sammy Gordon & The Hip-Huggers and Little Royal, and even earning the sobriquet "Little JB" for his similarity to James Brown, awareness for his music outside the niche scene didn’t accumulate until almost 40 years later. Fields didn’t think it would happen at all.
"I’ll put it like this, the success of My World was a total surprise," explains Fields. "The record took, like, two years or something. The label guys would call me up and say ‘All right, come over and we’ll do a record.’ I’d come over and do another record, and I just thought, ‘I don’t know what those guys are doing with those records.’ I didn’t know, I just knew they asked me to come over and I came. All of a sudden, one day they called me and said the album was ready, and I was totally knocked out! That’s the story of My World."
In the grand tradition of funk and soul music, the lyrical stories themselves on My World focused on issues of financial success, ambition, love and, above all, human relationships. With Faithful Man, Fields continues to explore issues of the heart.
"The world is changing so fast, and every day we have new ideas how to do things, and new technology," says Fields. "But one thing remains the same, and that’s man, woman, relationship, or whatever the relationship may be. Any time two people are trying to be as one in this world, there is always a song."
Lee Fields & The Expressions
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