Lee Fields & the Expressions, Emma Jean

Dan Epstein

By Dan Epstein

on 06.03.14 in Reviews

Emma Jean

Lee Fields & The Expressions
Favoring more measured and contemplative Southern-style soul grooves

On Emma Jean, Lee Fields’s third full-length for Brooklyn’s Truth & Soul Records, the singer and his redoubtable backing band the Expressions dial back on the gutbucket intensity of 2012′s Faithful Man in favor of more measured and contemplative Southern-style soul grooves. Emma Jean was mixed and partly recorded at Easy Eye Sound, the Nashville Studio owned by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys (Auerbach also penned “Paralyzed” for the album), and the Southern-fried approach clearly fits the North Carolina-born Fields. Just check out his performance on the cover of J.J. Cale’s “Magnolia” — which stays true to the arrangement of the 1971 original while significantly bolstering its emotional impact — or on fine originals like the late-night lover’s plea “Eye to Eye” and the country-soul weeper “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” The Expressions more than hold up their end of the bargain as well, whether they’re coming on like the Stax house band on “Just Can’t Win,” ladling liquid swamp-funk all over “In the Woods,” or stepping out on their own for most of “All I Need,” which sounds like it could be a lost TSU Toronados b-side. It all adds up to what may well be the best album of Fields’s career.