On the face of it, you could go two ways with an album title like Faithful Man. One is the route of religious faith, and the other goes in a different direction, as in "I'll be faithful to you, girl." Well, Lee Fields hasn't suddenly turned to making gospel records, so you pretty much know what kind of record this is lyrically. In fact, it entirely avoids the topical detours that peppered his last album, My World, in favor of love, loss, and longing, and it also finds a third way to be faithful in the sound of the music, which is old-school in every respect.
Renaissance man Lee Fields has been cutting gut-busting soul ballads and James Brown-indebted funk gems since way back during both genres’ ‘60s heyday. But his name and hard-to nail-down discography probably would have fallen through the cracks of time had it not been for a recent Autumn career revival. Rescued from the abyss by Truth & Soul Records, Fields’ bang-on recreation of classic R&B (with new backing band The Expressions) on 2009’s My World felt sincere and refreshing.
Where music often finds itself stuck inside of clichés and trite comparisons that do little for the contrast, there is some music that finds itself progressing through its brandished roots – sliding towards a new agenda, rather than sticking with the same old shtick. When it comes to soul music, some purists would have you believe the genre died when the king of soul, James Brown, passed away and for other ‘analysts,’ way before. It’s difficult to pinpoint when a genre starts and dies, unless of course jazz ever goes away (that’s a whole other debate), but the beauty of artists like Lee Fields – who’s currently writing and making the best music of his workman-like career – is that he’s taken soul and continued to embellish off it and around.
It should be no problem for Fields to find a new audience with this collection. Ian Wade 2012 He’s paid some dues, has Lee Fields. He packed up and fled from Wilson, North Carolina in 1967, following the footsteps of his heroes to New York City. He began to sing and dance in clubs where people literally threw money at his feet.
Lee Fields comes blessed with many things, but timing isn't one of them. The North Carolina native first cut a cover of James Brown's "Bewildered" as a teenager in 1969, but his debut long-player of JB-styled hard funk and soul ballads didn't see release until a decade later when the world had moved on. Late in the Nineties, Fields became the first hardscrabble singer-survivor paired with the Brooklynites who later formed the Dap-Kings.