Most musicians don’t seem to age very well. Yet, Lee Fields is aging like velvety red wine -- there is indeed something funky about the robust North Carolina native.
At Lee Fields & the Expressions' Nov. 30 Belly Up show, you will hear raspy and soulful vocals backed by '70s gospel funk. Fields’ sound is quickly and often compared to James Brown, earning him the nickname “Little J.B.”
It wasn't always this way though: Fields released his first single back in 1969 after he moved to New York at the age of 17. However, it wasn’t until 40 years later that Fields began to reach his musical peak. In 2009, he and his backing band, the Expressions, released their first album together entitled “My World.” Now, at the age 65, Fields drinks from the fountain of youth with a fan base larger (and younger) than it ever has been and a world tour in support of his latest album, “Special Night.”
How can someone age backwards? I had to ask Fields about his Benjamin Button syndrome. On a recent phone call, Fields answered with the utmost appreciation and excitement -- his voice mimicking that raspy swagger found on his recordings.
“You know what I think it is? I think it’s staying relevant with the times," the singer said. "Watching, being a part of things. I think a lot of people, once they reach a certain age, what they tend to think and do is so complacent and relaxed.”
The music of Lee Fields & the Expressions is not necessarily groundbreaking as much as it is refreshing. Vocally, Fields sounds just as strong (if not stronger) than he did back in the '70s. The band, all about 25 years younger than Fields, adds youth to the musical style, playing a modern form of retro funk and blues. The frontman explained how the band constantly strives to be relevant and genuine.
Music. Community. Culture.
“We try to write about things that we see people do. We try to write about matters that’s contending us today. As a matter of fact, soul music itself is the spirit and the spirit is of God. That being said, I try to write about the here and now -- and this is between gospel and soul music. Gospel is about the when and then. And soul music is about the here and now, and it’s done in a way that we would hope that it would be pleasing to God.”
“I’m totally energized by my young supporters," he continued. "I couldn’t ask for anything better. I’m like a child on Christmas day, opening up all these presents when I come on stage.” He laughed like the kid inside of him.
“It makes me thrilled coming up on stage every night, it makes me get the same kind of thrill that I have gotten in the earlier years. It’s indescribable. I can talk forever, man. So wonderful.”
Musician, people-pleaser, lover, fighter and writer Matthew Craig Burke has been spewing musical words of wisdom since never. He lives off of peanut butter sandwiches, beer and Beck Hansen. Follow his updates on Facebook or contact him directly.