It’s that moment when you close your eyes, unaware of the world around you, the trappings of the 21st century concrete jungle fade away, and for that four and a half minutes you are tapped into another epoch through the sonic connection surrounding you.
Such a moment occurred to men and women alike last spring when Lee Fields & The Expressions captured the stage at Paper Tiger, letting the horn section wail and cry and the Al Green guitar riff set the mood on his testament to the fairer sex, "Beautiful Ladies." His shirt unbuttoned from the pure sexual tension in the air as he tenderly proffered his hand to the swooning women in the audience and sang, “you can take a man and make him feel like king.”
The man known as “Little J.B.” will continue his 45 years of life on the stage this Thursday, March 31st at Paper Tiger, with Kirk Thurmond and The Millennials opening at 9PM. Dancing shoes and loose-satin shirts are suggested, but not required as you will sweat, and you will get sexy.
Fields, at 65 years young, released his sound at a time when James Brown’s soul was on fire with the people, and the average listener could easily mistake Field’s with the King of Funk. But according to his most recent press release for 2014’s Emma Jean “there is no mistaking a Lee Fields track…a distinct soulful sound has been forged between him and The Expressions.”
Yet in the words of Fields himself, that’s not the only reason why Emma Jean is particularly his sound. “My mission on Emma Jean was to record songs for my mother,” Fields said in a phone interview. “I can put roses on her grave but it may not mean anything to her. Music is closer to the dimension she is in now.”
There is indeed a level of organic maturity, of quiet reflection in the movements of the album. From haunting balladic breakdowns like "Paralyzed" or "Into the Woods," or the anthem to the resilient that starts off the album "Just Can’t Win", Fields keeps a consistency with his sound and expression that is uniquely heart. “This is a bouquet of songs, of melodies that perhaps she can feel,” Fields said. “I’m repeating her name, I can feel her spirit close by.”
While talking with Fields, the power of his presence made him feel close by, though thousands of miles separated us. It felt as if I was speaking with a simple and sagacious soul, no extraordinary ego or tales of the more bombastic and brazen side of show-business, just a real, authentic man. “I’m a regular guy, and in everything I do I give God the glory,” Fields said. “God will work it all out.”
Fields claims he is not a political man, a man of faith, but still he hopes his music can act as a remedy for healing for those who share in musical evenings with him. “Even in chaos, we can find order,” Fields said of current world affairs, invoking a greater reach to humanity at large. “It only makes us play more, sing harder to get to that place of serenity.”
A feeling that Fields is after on the stage, and one that you have to work hard not to feel in his presence, is euphoria. “The moment of euphoria to me is when there is nothing but good feelings, feeling totally at peace and nothing can detract from that,” Fields said. “There is nothing a person can eat, drink, or take that can make them feel that way-euphoria is indescribable.”
Even when that pure state doesn’t arrive, Fields is grateful for the journey, especially alongside the Expressions. “I waited 40 years for this band, and when I got with them, I knew it was the band,” Fields said. “Every person on that stage is just as important as the next guy.”
Having witnessed The Expressions alongside Fields, it is easy to understand what he’s talking about. There is a fundamental honesty to the expression and tightness in the band that clearly comes from the maxims and work ethic of Fields. “When people become one, they can accomplish whatever they want to,” Fields said. “Peace and tranquility is about becoming one, it occurs when we operate as one.”
Fields has certainly taken his soul train to enough places in the world to understand the nature of our interconnectedness. The past year has taken him to Europe, South America, and all over the U S of A. “The planet is a ship, and we’re all on it together,” Fields said. “We’re just sailing together through the cosmos.”
Fields is far from starry-eyed or sublime in his declarations, but rather quite grounded in the power of love from his experiences with music. “Any place where people give love, is a place I’m happy to be,” Fields said. “I’m excited to be back in SA, had a lot of fun and people were very love-giving.”