Lee Fields is a real soul man, through and through. He cut his first record on the Desco label way back in 1969, and has released albums in every decade since. While the 80s were a quiet period, and the 90s saw him release a string of low budget oddities, it really wasn’t until he hooked up with the production team from Truth & Soul Records on the cusp of the 2010s that he found his calling.
His first single, ‘Bewildered’, was a coming-of-age doo-wop track. “We were on the Bedford label”, Fields recalls, “and that was the beginning of my recording endeavours. When I reflect on that, they were some beautiful times. The world has changed a great deal since then, but the world still is a beautiful place.”
If anyone understands how much the musical world has changed, especially in terms of soul and funk, it must be Lee Fields. He has played with countless musicians across scores of labels but when asked about his new band, the Expressions, he says: “it seems like we were almost meant to be; it seems like it was inevitable that we would be getting together. And now that great things are happening for us, I mean I just can’t find words to describe how elated I am. Every show it’s just like I’m a child on Christmas morning because I love playing with these guys.
Everybody tries to give their all, man, because the most important thing when we come on stage is hoping that the audience will reach that euphoric moment, you know what I mean? So that’s what we strive for, we live for that.”
Truth & Soul is a label that prides itself on its authentic sounding soul and funk productions, a label formed back in 2004 by Philippe Lehman, Leon Michels and Jeff Silverman. Prior to that Lehman produced records with Gabriel Roth on the now defunct Desco label. “Gabriel Roth and Philippe Lehman were the beginning with those Desco records we were cutting, but since I’ve gotten over there with Leon Michels and Jeff Silverman with the last couple of albums, it’s allowed me to have more flexibility and more creative freedom”.
It seems that Fields has come full circle then, in search of that real soul sound, something that he attributes to the work of Truth & Soul’s production team. “They want the authentic sound, that’s what they’re looking for, and so far that’s been working so well for us. All the love that we’re getting today would be due to Leon Michels and Jeff Silverman’s production, cause they’re saying ‘let’s keep this thing real, man; let’s give them real soul music’, so that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Fields’ output is a testament to his dedication; something he realises is necessary in today’s ever-changing industry. “Believe it or not we know that in order to sustain ourselves in music we have to constantly be producing new music. That’s a necessity. So as a matter of fact I just left Nova Scotia yesterday and two days prior to that, right after I got back from Chicago, we went in the studio and wrote two new songs, so we’ve got about eight songs done now for the new album and hopefully we’ll have it by the fall of the year.
“We’re trying to make the best record we can possibly make. We’re not just putting together an album and just throwing it out there, we’re trying to make sure that we do our best. So prior to going to Nova Scotia I was in the studio for two days, man, and I mean non-stop! We got something done, I mean, trust me, we got something done!”
It’s would be difficult not to believe him when he says this. The last two albums with the same team, 2009’s My World and last year’s Faithful Man, have been among the best soul releases so far this century and it doesn’t seem like they plan to stop there. The new album, he hopes, will be out by January next year. “But that decision lies in Leon’s hands because he’s a perfectionist, man, and I’m a perfectionist and we wanna make sure this thing is done right. We wanna make sure that when people hear it they say: “Aw now, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”
Lee Fields & the Expressions perform at Sugar Club, Dublin tonight (24th July, tickets: €25.40) and the Pavilion, Cork tomorrow (25th July, tickets: €22-24).