Next up in the ever-spinning kaleidoscope of what’s hip? John Denver.
Well, maybe not quite. But the cheery, mop-topped songwriter, who died in an airplane accident in 1997, might be on the verge of being reincarnated as a soul singer, if Lee Fields has anything to do with it. Reached in scenic Telluride, Colorado, Fields reports that the ghost of the man who wrote “Rocky Mountain High” is helping shape his next album, however unlikely that might seem.
The plan, Fields reveals, is to step away from the sweet-and-sensual lovers’ soul of his previous effort, 2016’s Special Night, and focus on making music that serves as a balm for today’s increasingly congested world.
“The population is getting greater,” Fields notes. “People are living in closer and closer confines, so what we need now are songs that relieve a person’s feeling of being enclosed. And John Denver, his music always made me feel like an open breeze, the songs that he sang. So I’m not saying that we’re going to mimic John Denver, but I want to have a few songs that are airy like that, so when you listen to them you just feel like ‘Oh, man, I think I’ll just go on a trip with this.’ ”
Talking with Fields is a trip in itself. The veteran vocalist’s rambling conversation with the Straight touched on global warming, Platonic notions of form, the dangers of a world run by robots, and the symbiotic relationship between gangsta rap and the privatized, for-profit prisons that have infiltrated the U.S. justice system. On the lighter side, he also waxed eloquent about the deep joys of marital fidelity—the inspiration for Special Night’s title track, along with his 2012 effort <em">Faithful Man.
“I wrote ‘Special Night’ to express my feelings towards my long relationship with my wife,” he says. “We’ve been together now for a long time, and I thought it would be nice to write a song about how great it is when two people can pull that off. When you pull that off it’s one of the greatest experiences in the world, as far as I’m concerned.
“You have so much history to share,” Fields continues, “and you go through so many things together that you become each other’s leaning post when one of you becomes weak—and every night is special.”
The gentlemanly Fields clearly has a huge heart—and if people respond to his songs, it’s likely because they can hear the compassion in his voice. “It shows,” he says, with enough humility that it’s no brag. “I’m true to what I really believe, and what I believe is that I love people, so I’m trying to write positive songs.
“I don’t like politics,” he adds. “I know very little about what people should be doing. So what I write about is how I feel—and about love, which is the necessary adhesive to keep us, as humankind, bonded together for good.”
Lee Fields & the Expressions play the Truck Stop Concert Series at Red Truck Brewery on Saturday (August 12).