Lee Fields & The Expressions at Bottom Lounge | Concert preview
Funk vet sidesteps the retro route in favor of new flavors.
Lee Fields has always been too “real” for the Daptone musicians/producers who quixotically championed him for years before finding glory playing behind Sharon Jones and Amy Winehouse. These two women soared not because they were more talented than Fields, but because they were malleable and astute enough to take a thoroughly modern approach to being retro.
On his new CD, Treacherous, the 40-year funk veteran proves what real authenticity is by boldly applying his expressive vocals to blues, house, funk, minimalist Euro-disco and blue-light-in-the-basement grind music. Myopic Northern Soul diehards coveting retro R&B vinyl will not be happy with this. That’s because, ironically, to be a true bluesman these days—to play the music that older black crowds actually want to hear—involves forgoing the old-time sound and embracing the electronic keyboards, budget production techniques and crowd-pleasing lasciviousness (demonstrated here with the lively “Dance Like You’re Naked”) that the Malaco label used to revive the careers of Johnnie Taylor, Z.Z. Hill, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Shirley Brown in the ’80s.
Though these artists’ careers flourished on the so-called chitlin’ circuit, none has ever crossed over to hipsterville. But if anyone has the chops to impress the crowds in both L.A.s (Los Angeles and lower Alabama), it’s this consummate showman.