After most hiatuses by a musical performer, fans long for the day that they return to the stage, often only to be disappointed by the quality of the release. Lee Fields has sidestepped this phenomenon with deft grace and has risen to even greater heights than he must have thought possible in his latest album, released Oct. 28. Produced by Daptone Records Co-founder Gabriel Roth, Sentimental Fool creates the perfect environment for Fields to display his vocal talent (arguably one of the best in the current lineup of soul musicians). Fields is joined by a backing band of incredible skill with guitarist Thomas Brenneck (of The Budos Band and Menahan Street Band), saxophonist Neal Sugarman (of the Sugarman 3 and The Dap-Kings), trumpeter Dave Guy (of The Roots and The Dap-Kings), as well as others of almost equally prolific musical experience.
With the minds behind some of this decade’s most brilliant instrumental groups involved in the project, Fields runs the risk of being overshadowed by his peers, yet his 50-year experience as a singer proves that sometimes experience rings more powerfully than musical skill. Fields’ career spans over 40 musical projects and almost 20 studio albums, yet this latest release proves to be his most intimate and human. An album heavily populated by catchy dance tunes, Sentimental Fool’s strengths lie in the raw emotion evoked in the fast-moving ballads “Save Your Tears For Someone New” and “Ordinary Lives.” Both songs include the clichéd trope of yearning for unrequited love but allow new takes on the concept, dealing with topics like toxic relationships and the difficulties of modern romance. Considering Fields has been performing since 1967, it’s safe to say that he has some authority to discuss these topics with a high degree of nuance. Although there are tracks rife with emotion and mental fortitude, Fields doesn’t shy away from showing a more energized side to his character on songs like “Two Jobs” and “Your Face Before My Eyes.” Songs like these showcase Field’s powerful voice while professing his takes on life’s hardships as well as its lighter moments.
While Fields has shown incredible talent on this record, props must be given to Gabriel Roth for creating an atmosphere in which Fields can shine and show the full breadth of his singing ability. A striking tenet about Sentimental Fool is the way in which the instrumentalists complement Fields’ vocal talent, considering the fact that this is Fields’ first ever album with Daptone Records (while all the supporting musicians on Sentimental Fool are Daptone Records regulars). Along with the all-star lineup of backing musicians, Sentimental Fool might be the most well-produced album released in 2022. It proves that Fields has come a long way in his musical career. He has shed his title of “Little JB” (James Brown, an incredibly important influence on the early stages of Fields’ career) and has shown that he will leave an indelible mark on American musical history as one of the greatest soul singers of all time.