Where music often finds itself stuck inside of clichés and trite comparisons that do little for the contrast, there is some music that finds itself progressing through its brandished roots – sliding towards a new agenda, rather than sticking with the same old shtick. When it comes to soul music, some purists would have you believe the genre died when the king of soul, James Brown, passed away and for other ‘analysts,’ way before. It’s difficult to pinpoint when a genre starts and dies, unless of course jazz ever goes away (that’s a whole other debate), but the beauty of artists like Lee Fields – who’s currently writing and making the best music of his workman-like career – is that he’s taken soul and continued to embellish off it and around. With the Expressions, Fields continues his exploration of soul (or neo-soul if you will) and delivers another stunner with Faithful Man.
Much like Sharon Jones (who also has her own Expressions via Dap-Kings), Fields has explored soul’s vast spectrum with defining, recent, albums that paint illustrious soul colors. For Fields, music continues to relish in styles similar to The Delfonics, the aforementioned Jones and Dap-Kings and of course, Brown as well. But instead of sounding tired and out of sorts, Fields’ passion for music is prevalent in everything from the arrangements to the sound of his voice. On “I Still Got It” Fields declares his worth with a ruthless kiss-off to his woman and does so with backing female vocals and a stirring string section. The drums and piano stomp away as Fields sings about losing all of his possessions to her and yet, he’s still got it. This kind of confident swagger adds to the album’s moving compositions; delicately brought together but fiercely rendered, the entire band is in full control here.
After an “Intermission” that includes subtle instrumentals to the backdrop of a scaling piano, “Wish You Were Here” takes a hold of the scene with a bitter love loss. Never a cover but an original tale of heartache, Fields recounts many feelings, “No traces of you, what can I do? Alone and confused,” with a roaring horn section to support his lamenting soul. Taking everything the genre has to offer – with varying degrees of guitar, bass and drums – the music is an enveloping creature to behold. Fields always sounds undeniably terrific, whether it’s the title track’s rollicking nature conveying Fields’ honest admittance, or the blistering and beautiful roll of “It’s All Over (But the Crying,)” the music towers with a tremendous presence.
On My World Fields took the rich roots of his old shows and turned it into a bona fide, rich soulful album. With Faithful Man Fields once again championed influences that are tried and true while exploring the soul groundwork around him. Although there is always a delicate balance to find, Fields sounds commandingly assured with songs that ache and bristle with lush convictions. The emotion on this new album is equally strong and the music continues to shine, neo or just plain, soul is alive.