If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you’ve likely come across a handful of posts featuring soul singer Lee Fields. Fields has had a nearly 50 year music career, which he can trace back to his first recorded efforts released back in 1969 — and as a result, he has toured with a number of nationally and internationally known acts including Kool and the Gang, O.V. Wright, Hip Huggers, and others. However, despite sharing bills with a number of renowned acts, Fields has largely toiled in a level of obscurity to most audiences with the exceptions of crate diggers seeking deep, funky grooves from the late 60s to mid 70s or so and obsessively completist soul music fans and record collectors. Fortunately for the likes of Fields, Sonny Knight, the late and utterly fantastic Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley, the late, great Chuck Brown and others the soul music revival has allowed them to achieve a measure of attention and fame that had long eluded them — or in the case of both Chuck Brown and Sonny Knight, an opportunity to receive attention outside of their particular hometown. And along with that there have been an increasing number of contemporary acts and labels both nationally and internationally releasing new, original material that pushes what soul music should sound like and concern itself with thematically in very different directions.
Along with this latest backing band, The Expressions, which features some of New York’s finest soul musicians — members of the band have been members or have split time with the world famous Dap Kings, Charles Bradley’s backing bands The Extraordinaires and The Menahan Street Band and others — Fields captured the attention of the blogosphere and new fans with 2009’s My World, 2012’s Faithful Man and 2014’s Emma Jean through Truth and Soul Records. And with those three albums Fields and company increasingly pushed their overall sound and lyrical concerns in different directions — Emma Jean featured a gorgeous soulful cover of Leon Russell’s “Out In The Woods,” which managed to draw parallels to Fields’ own experience of arriving in New York as a 17 year-old with only $20 in his pocket and big dreams. Interestingly Fields’ fourth album with The Expressions Special Night mostly focuses on the intricacies of romantic and personal relationships with one exception — album single “Make The World.” a stomping, early 70s James Brown-indebted bit of funk soul, about the need for people to unite and get things right. The album’s latest single, album title track “Special Night” is a slow-burning and tender, psych soul and Quiet Storm-leaning love song in which the song’s narrator expresses being grateful and lucky to stumble upon a wonderful lover, and how he was going to show his lover how grateful he was. Lucky and rare are those who find that kind of love. May we all know that kind of love at some point in our lives.
Directed by Nick Walker, the recently released video for “Special Night” possesses a relatively simple concept — as we follow Lee Fields, using a free-floating dolly shot in a sunny, Southern California grapevine, and of a gorgeous backdrop with a hot air balloon in the background. It’s a subtly trippy yet cinematic video.