Soul balladeer Lee Fields strikes the perfect balance on It Rains Love | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Soul balladeer Lee Fields strikes the perfect balance on It Rains Love

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The recording career of Lee Fields extends at least as far back as 1969, but he was considered little more than a footnote in R&B history until the late 1990s and early 2000s, when he emerged as a latter-day roots-soul celebrity. Cast initially as a James Brown-style funk artist, Fields landed his sole chart hit, “Stop Watch,” in 1986, and though he enjoyed moderate success on the 90s southern soul-blues circuit, he was scuffling in semi-anonymity a few years later when the retro-soul crowd caught up with him. This led to a string of highly acclaimed albums on aficionados’ labels such as Desco, Truth & Soul, Daptone, and, most recently, Big Crown. The audience for Fields’s style of music loves the type of heart-ripping soul ballad that just happens to be his true metier: he sings with the classic soul combo of muscularity and tenderness, summoning a coarse-edged, deeply textured croon, achingly vulnerable but girded with just enough sinew to avoid becoming cloying. On his latest recording, It Rains Love (Big Crown), Fields is backed by a vintage-sounding studio crew, and he pours it on with more fervor than ever—demonstrating his soul balladeer’s knack for summoning power from even the tritest conceits (“It rains love when I'm with you / You're my sun when the clouds roll through”). And Fields has finally found his way onto mainstream contemporary playlists via big-eared hip-hop producers: He’s been sampled for songs by the likes of Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky, J. Cole, and Jeremih. Scott included a Fields sample on “Antidote,” the second single off his 2015 debut, Rodeo—which gave Fields’s voice its first appearance on the charts in almost 30 years.   v

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