People just call me "Lee Fields"

Soul-funk cooker brings his Memphis stew to Casbah Monday night

Lee Fields, bringing his stomp-down soul funk revue to the Casbah on June 30, doesn’t so much mind being called “Little JB” — in homage to James Brown, in whose shadow all soul-funk revues do their thing. He hastens to note, “I was called that by some people when I was a kid. However, most people during that time associated my voice with Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, and Brook Benton. Today, people just call me ‘Lee Fields.’”

Being Lee Fields hasn’t been easy, not least for all the sweat and funky footwork begun as a young man in the early ’70s. “Of course,” he muses, “being human, our physical bodies are gradually depleting themselves of energy as time transpires, which is inevitable. Staying as physically and mentally fit as I can makes a physical demanding show much easier.”

Asked for the secret recipe for his new album Emma Jean, the singer sums it up: “We tried to merge a Motown silk into a Memphis stew with a pinch of Tulsa spices all mixed into a New Orleans gumbo.” The album’s heart is Emma Jean herself: “She is my late mother, and God bless her soul.”

Fields will pour on the high energy, interspersed with pleading-to-the-rafters ballads, so long as he’s able, but he’s struggled to become his own man — including a hookup with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, who recorded part of Emma Jean at Easy Eye Sound in Nashville and wrote “Paralyzed” for the new album. “Yes, my act has changed much through the years,” Fields elaborates, “as I strived to become more original, by reasoning as to why I do things certain ways musically. If the outcome of my reasoning showed that I was sounding too much like another artist, then I would change whatever was necessary to be original. I think we all are shaped mentally by our affinities and associations. We can be who we are, and not replicas of someone else, by looking close at ourselves.”

Fields praises the Casbah from his previous visits to San Diego, noting the “very beautiful reception” he’s gotten there. Asked how the tour for Emma Jean has gone so far, he notes: “All audiences seem to be tough, but I just try to give them my best, and they give love in return.”

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