Lee Fields has been in the soul game a long time - his first single ‘Bewildered’, landed in 1969. He kept putting out soul and hard funk songs and an album a year, up until 1981, earning a reputation as James Brown’s most sincere disciple in the process. He left the field for a decade, but as the 1990s arrived, he was back on stages belting out soul and releasing a steady stream of albums.

When a crowd of young soul-lovers emerged at the Dap Tone and Truth and Soul labels, he’s found a new audience to go along with the Northern Soul diehards, and it was a packed crowd that greeted him at Ottawa’s Ritual nightclub when he stopped off on tour for his new album, ‘A Faithful Man’.

Opening were local combo Slim Moore and The Mar-Kays. The Mar-Kays are an offshoot of the Souljazz Orchestra, a locally famous collection of world music-groovers in the vein of Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, while Gary ‘Slim’ Moore cut his teeth in the world of reggae, working with such performers as Yellowman.

The seven-member group opened things in traditional style, with an instrumental and a song by backing singer Mary Caruso, before the ever-energetic Moore.

In truth, Moore’s strengths lie chiefly in his stage presence - his voice rates as serviceable. The Mar-Kays are a very capable combo, and in addition to their on summery offerings ran through Marvin Gaye’s classic
‘What’s Going On’ and Syl Johnson’s ‘Is It Because I’m Black?’ and ‘Concrete Reservation’.

By comparison, Lee Field’s voice is still in great shape, easily up to a howl or a croon as he swaggers around Ritual’s stage, exhorting the audience “Are you ready to party” and “Put your hands in the air!” with the fervour of a Baptist minister.

He took the stage in a pair of aviator’s sunglasses, black suit and matching chartreuse waistcoat and tie, a short and stocky man capable of switching between intensity and jocularity with ease. At one moment all sombre sincerity for ‘I Wish You Were Here’, then teasing the women in the front row before launching into ‘You're The Kinda Girl’.

His band The Expressions, veterans of the Truth & Soul and Dap-Tone bands, have soul chops to spare and provided an exact but lively rendition of the vintage soul sound - although Fields’ name is attached to some of the best underground funk, his second regeneration has seen him turn back to his earliest days as a soul belter.

Wrapping things up with an encore of ‘Sunny’ and ‘What Can A Man Do?’ he promised to sign anything audience members bought at the merch table - still a soul trooper 40 years on.















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