Lee Fields & The Expressions
It’s hard to find another active singer today that has the background Lee Fields does: a first release in 1969, records on thirteen different labels, and close to 45 years of music making, touring, and recording. With such a seasoned past, it’s amazing that the musician and artist, Lee Fields, a North Carolina native, is as busy and focused as ever.
Backed by The Expressions and their incomparable soul-sound musicianship, as well as Brooklyn’s own Truth & Soul record label, Lee Fields’ last two albums–My World and Faithful Man– have landed them all over the world. From sold-out shows in music meccas like New York City, L.A., Chicago, Berlin, London, and Amsterdam to TV performances in France, the UK, and Germany–there is a perfection and evolution of the soul sound from Lee Fields & The Expressions that everyone needs to hear.
The formula seems to be two-fold: sticking to the raucous-yet-tender voiced soul music Lee Fields has always made, yet updating it–pushing the boundaries of what it can be. The result is an unmistakable sound, something that, as Pitchfork put it in it’s review of Faithful Man, “isn’t indebted specifically to Atlantic or Stax or Philadelphia International or Chess or Fame or Motown so much as it’s indebted to all of them at once.”
This is why no one can call a Lee Fields record on Truth & Soul a “throwback.” It has hints, sounds, and feelings that may be familiar but then there are textures, themes, and approaches that challenge the genre and stretch the sound into something else, something decidedly Lee Fields.
To be sure, a good part of this Lee Fields sound can be chalked up to Truth & Soul producers and co-owners Jeff Silverman and Leon Michels, as well as the team of top-notch musicians involved. The artists you hear behind Lee Fields are some of the same that have backed the likes of Aloe Blacc, Sharon Jones, El Michels Affair, Adele, Liam Bailey, Ghostface Killah, and Jay-Z to name a few.
This distinctive sound and style, a long time in the making, is again on blast with Emma Jean, the Summer 2014 album release from Lee Fields & The Expressions on Truth & Soul. Here, once more, the rules of the soul genre are tested, changed, and updated, showing that Fields and company have a very real command of this sound. To be sure, there are those that may be content with identifying and following the formulas of soul music’s past. But this new record–and the ones before it–show that Lee Fields, The Expressions, and Truth & Soul are more interested in where it can go next.