There will soon be real soul music coming to Montreal. While many bands these days strive to emulate the raw, funky sounds of the 1960s from record labels like Stax, Lee Fields doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. He was around when soul music was being forged and he has been at it ever since. The raspy but passionate singer’s career has spanned 45 years and has allowed him to tour the world with groups like Kool and the Gang and O.V. Wright, among others. Fields has again risen to prominence with his current group the Expressions. They will be playing at Cabaret du Mile End on September 10, supporting their recent album Emma Jean, released earlier this year on Truth & Soul Records.
It is easy to tell that Lee Fields and the Expressions is not just a gimmick band that achieves a retro sound without much substance. These musicians play with heart, authenticity, and with an ostensible urge to push the music forward. They certainly do not sound like a band that is content sitting on its laurels, rehashing old standards. Their sound pays homage to the lineage of soul music while contributing new elements to the genre’s canon.
Emma Jean is a reflection of Fields and the Expressions’ evolution as a group and their expansion of musical ideas. The songwriting on the album is not formulaic, which is a trap that entices many soul acts. The arrangements are creative and effective, challenging but accessible. The band employs tight grooves, tasteful horns, and as always, Fields’ honest, tender vocals. In line with the soul tradition, Fields’ lyrics focus primarily on love and loss. Even though these themes are not entirely original, Fields’ delivery is like no other.
It is not often that a group with such a strong soul pedigree (and lived experience) comes through Montreal. Lee Fields and the Expressions is a rare breed of band that has the combination of undeniably supreme musicianship and unbridled depth of emotion and funk.
Lee Fields and the Expressions will be playing at Cabaret du Mile End on Wednesday, September 10. Doors open at 7 p.m, tickets cost $22 (plus fees) and can be purchased here.