Lee Fields is arguably the greatest soul singer alive today. In an age when the shelf life of an artist largely depends on posturing and trends, he has proven to be an unassailable force of nature. His prolific, decade-spanning career continues to reign supreme on the modern soul scene.
In 2001, Gabriel Roth opened the doors on Daptone Records, with Lee Fields releasing a handful of singles in the early aughts. Now, more than two decades later, Fields has officially joined the Daptone roster, reuniting him with Roth on the 25th anniversary of their first meeting to record Sentimental Fool, a deep, blues-tinged collection expertly showcasing the beauty, power, and raw humanity of Fields’ voice. The album, which features backing from an all-star lineup of Daptone family members including guitarist Thomas Brenneck, bassist Benny Trokan, drummer Brian Wolfe, keyboardists Victor Axelrod and Jimmy Hill, saxophonists Neal Sugarman and Ian Hendrickson-Smith, and trumpeter Dave Guy, along with an array of additional guest musicians and backing vocalists, stands tall as a stunning return to Fields’ R&B roots. It’s the culmination of an astounding career that has seemed to defy gravity, rising to only greater and greater heights.
“I wanted to cut a different kind of record and really give Lee room to sing,” explains Roth. “We took our time and got painfully deep into every one of these tunes, stripping them down to pure feeling – no effort spared, no empty gestures remaining. Lee might be the greatest singer alive and I don’t think he’s ever sung better than on these sessions.”
“With Gabe’s efforts I feel like this album depicts me as the full character that I am,” says Fields. “I’m all about emotions. This album allowed me to show what I’m capable of doing. Not to say that my vocal ability goes beyond others, but I’m able to figure out the math to get the feeling you’re looking for. I’m not trying to outdo any singer, but I can interpret the feeling. I can make someone cry if I want to. It’s always the challenge of trying to make something deeper. On this record I go deeper than I’ve ever gone.”
Inspired by James Brown’s legendary performance on the T.A.M.I. Show, the North Carolina-born Fields arrived in New York City in 1967 to make himself a soul star. The decades that followed saw Fields grow a hard-earned reputation as a true king of funk with a steady stream of albums and singles, including the early classic, “Let’s Talk It Over.” Though missed opportunities and changing musical tastes over the years might have kept him from reaching the pinnacle of mainstream stardom, Fields never let up, keeping the soul flame alive with independent releases and non-stop touring on the southern blues circuit.
His prolific five-decades-plus career spans more than 20 albums and over 40 singles, a supreme, still-evolving body of work which continues to garner attention via samples by such heavyweight artists as J. Cole, Travis Scott, Rick Ross, and A$AP Rocky as well as outside-the-box collaborations like the worldwide dance club hit, “Jealousy,” with French DJ/producer Martin Solveig.