ALBUM REVIEW: Lee Fields Yearns for Something Lasting on ‘Sentimental Fool’
It’s kind of crazy that despite recording several singles for Daptone Records and joining Sharon Jones on a couple of her songs, legendary soul man Lee Fields has never recorded a full-length release for the imprint. That changes now with the release of Sentimental Fool, a record that marks his first project in three years and his first time singing under the Daptone banner in nearly 20.
With the help of the label’s finest musicians and founder Gabriel Roth serving as producer, Fields offers up a dozen deeply satisfying tracks that showcase his prodigious gifts as an interpreter of soul and blues.
Fields mixes it up on Sentimental Fool, offering up funky dance jams and outsized soul ballads alike. “Ordinary Lives” is a heartfelt plea for a lover’s tryst to last a few more hours before uncoupling and returning to normal, daily life. It pairs nicely with the album’s opening track, “Forever,” a classic torch song.
This theme of yearning for a lasting relationship permeates the album, whether it’s on the title track or the extraordinarily wistful “Extraordinary Man.” On each of these tracks, the 72-year-old Fields really sells the emotional import, offering up a lifetime’s worth of experiences and heartache in his delivery.
Fields also uncorks the stylings that earned him the nickname “Little JB” (as in the Godfather himself, James Brown) in his younger days. “Two Jobs” is a sly up-tempo number that allows Fields to belt out the winkingly lascivious chorus of “I’m so tired when the day is through / I’m working two jobs and one of them is you.” On “Without a Heart,” Brian Wolfe’s funky drumming and Jimmy Hill’s Wurlitzer provide a rhythmic backdrop for Fields to alternately croon and holler over, to great effect.
Roth’s arrangements work perfectly, and his production allows Fields’ vocals and personality to shine. The combination of the Daptone sound and Fields’ charisma as a performer are a natural fit on Sentimental Fool. Here’s to hoping that this first full-length team-up won’t be the last.
Lee Fields’ Sentimental Fool is out Oct. 28 on Daptone Records.