Soul 2.0 by Lee Fields

Lee FieldsAbout five years ago, as a promotion for some media player (probably WinAmp), I got some free mp3s. It was something the company did now and then and it was cool; it allowed listeners to sample relatively unknown acts. By far, the best artist I discovered was Lee Fields — an incredible soul singer. At that time, I could find almost nothing about him other than that he had some minor success in the 1970s, seemed to drop out of music, and came back in the aughts. Mostly, what I knew about him was this one song, “Love Comes and Goes” off his album, My World. I think it is absolutely fantastic — musical perfection:

I still don’t know that much about Fields. He does, however, have a Wikipedia page now. According to it, he’s got the nickname “Little JB” because people think he sounds like James Brown. True enough. And other than mentioning a few people he’s worked with and a listing of his recordings, there isn’t much there. The main information about him is found in an article in the French language l’Express, Lee Fields, a Veteran of the Soul. As best as I can piece together, Fields released one album in 1979, Let’s Talk It Over. Listen to the title track and see if you don’t think it’s brilliant. But it didn’t become a hit or anything. So he disappeared, at least from the recording studio. It is certainly implied that he’s been working all this time. And someone with his talent would certainly be in demand for live music. But I have no idea what he was doing, except playing the “southern circuit.”

In 1999, he met up with a bunch of these white teenage R&B fanatics, The Expressions.[1] So he started playing with them. In 2002, he reemerged with Problems. It is more a funk album — very good but not the great stuff he would go on to do. In 2009, they put out My World. It is outstanding. Their next album, Faithful Man, is more mellow. I don’t like it quite as much, but it is still wonderful. Here is an actual music video for “You’re The Kind Of Girl”:

This year, Fields and company put out Emma Jean. It too is an outstanding album — as good as My World. The guy is just amazing. The band is fantastic. And here, for your listening enjoyment is a half-hour set that Fields and his band did at KEXP. It features a number of tunes off the new album:

My sister is always telling me about this or that great singer that she’s seen on television. Like recently, she mentioned Sam Smith. And I listened to him. He’s good. But it never moves me the way that, in this case, Lee Fields does. Part of it is just that it isn’t over-produced. Fields’ work is well produced, but there isn’t a great deal that is necessary. The music is enough — especially when you have a voice like Fields!

[1] I’m confused about The Expressions. It is not clear how constant the personnel are from year to year or ever day to day. Fields discusses this a little in live video.

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