R.S. Field – Outstanding in his….
R.S. Field represents one of the great hopes for Nashville. He is a maverick producer/performer/songwriter who is not afraid or ashamed to integrate Nashville’s past sounds with its present. In an era where most major-label country is either overproduced ballads or southern-slanted rock, Field knows how effective the basics of true rock ‘n’ and true country can still be.
Originally from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Field absorbed the sounds of British rock bands such as the Beatles, The Who and the Kinks as well as American country artists such as Johnny Horton and Hank Williams. Field moved to Austin for a period and played drums for Omar & The Howlers, but he soon moved back to Hattiesburg and resumed playing with his childhood friend and frequent musical cohort, Webb Wilder.
As a songwriter, Field has co-written “Powerful Stuff”, an album-rock radio hit for the Fabulous Thunderbirds. He moved Nashville after scoring a publishing deal but continued to work with Wilder, producing his 1986 debut, It Came From Nashville, as well as Wilder’s subsequent Hybrid Vigor, DooDad, Town and Country and Acres of Suede albums; he also wrote or co-wrote many of the songs on those records.
In the early ’90s, Field produced three records for British blues legend John Mayall, the second of which, 1993’s Wake Up Call, was nominated for a Grammy in the contemporary blues category. Next up was Louisiana guitarist Sonny Landreth; Field co-produced both of Landreth’s records on the Zoo/Praxis label.
But the production credit that should have put Field on the permanent Nashville map and honor roll was Tramp on Your Street, Billy Joe Shaver’s 1993 comeback record (made with Shaver’s son Eddy on guitar and released under the simple last name Shaver). Tramp was the kind of record Nashville didn’t seem to care to make anymore: It was a little raw, highly impassioned, and it totally cooked and caressed the soul in all the right places. It was a startling work that it proved all is not lost on the country music horizon. “It was an honor to work with Billy Joe and Eddie; I would love to do it again,” Field says, adding he was also thrilled to have a chance to work with Waylon Jennings, who sang on two cuts from Tramp.
A lover of “guitars and cool songs”, as he puts it, Field likes to do what he calls “informal” music. While he may not dress up the music to beg for mass acceptance, most of the time it sounds like he and the artists dig down deep when they go into the studio. A such, it’s no surprise that Field considers Billy Bremner, Albert Collins, Kenny Vaughn and George Bradflute among his favorite guitar players, as these players realize just how much that one note can mean, and what can be squeezed from it.
A couple artists Field is currently working with include John Keany, who Field describes as “Kinks-like” or “past-modern mod”; and Jamie Hartford (son of the legendary John Hartford), which he hopes to release on his own label, commonLawrecords. It also looks like he will be producing a new Leroi Brothers record for Rounder; other projects in the works include Carmella Ramsey (the wife of Kenny Vaughn), R.B. Morris, and Ray Wylie Hubbard.
Though Field is known for his work in more traditional genres such as country, blues and roots-rock, another band on his wish list to produce is the British alternative-rock trio Supergrass. That may come as a surprise at first, but it stems from Field’s basic, undying passion for dressed-down music with a killer vibe. It’s a relief to see folks such as Field in the business, looking for that emotion in music rather than its overall marketability. The future don’t look so bad after all.