april 2009

Dave Fields
FMI Records

Accomplished on multiple instruments (not all of them the stringed variety) and a musical jack-of-all-trades as a producer-musician-composer and head of his own Fields Music, which services original music to media and industrial markets, Dave Fields has kept his solo career on low flame, this being only his third album following his 1998 debut, Field of Vision. But his previous album emerging in 2007, and now a third in early 2009 perhaps indicate a new focus on making his personal statement. If so, the blues couldn't be happier, if that's not an oxymoron. All Wound Up is a solid, in the pocket long playing exploration of various blues styles in configurations both expansive and compact. Suffice it to say, Fields is persuasive whether he gets a boost from a powerhouse horn section and a gospelized backup singer, or whether he's working in a more stripped down mode with a small, tight combo that gives wide berth to his crushing guitar attack (the most potent example of which would be the dark-tinged grind of "Cold Wind Blowin'," on which his ominous six-string colorations bellow over his own subdued piano and organ and the tight bass-drums rhythm section). Still under the influence of his childhood idol Jimi Hendrix, Fields gives a wah-wah clinic on All Wound Up, using the device liberally but artfully, never for meaningless show but rather to add an edge to the mood, suggest something malevolent surging up from beneath a seemingly placid exterior, or to give voice to rapturous feelings of the sort he expresses in the heated album opening charge, "Train To My Heart." In widescreen mode, when he has horns, percussion, Billy Gibson on harmonica and soulful background vocalists at his command, Fields turns it on and turns it up in grand style. The funkified "Ain't No Crime" stomps and surges along as Fields defends everyone's inherent right to have a good time, while a horn section blares, Gibson's harp honks and howls, Ada Dayer injects a scorching, soul sister vocal retort, and the main man takes time to showcase a furiously wailing retort of his own on guitar, working the wah-wah for all it's worth and basically leaving nothing but scorched earth in his wake. On "Big Fat Ludus" he tears off into swing band territory with his large ensemble rushing alongside him: Gibson jumps in with frantic harp solos, the horns pump for all they're worth, the background singers jump and shout, and Fields gives the guitar a T-Bone Walker run in the midst of it all. As propulsive as everything gets at times, Fields knows how to bring it down a few notches into heartache territory, too. The solemn, horn-enriched blues ballad, "Wanna Be Your Man," surges and retreats as Fields sends up a solemn, emotional appeal for reconciliation. "Cold Wind Blowin'," on the other hand, has an early Zep feel about it, all quiet thunder by way of the heavy, top strings guitar riff and the thick, ominous blues-drenched ambiance, with Fields enhancing his subdued, reflective vocal with sizzling guitar interjections and a tasty blues piano run midway through. But there's nothing to compare to the power this aggregate has when the players go for it. Gibson's white-hot howls on harp open the New Orleans-flavored bounce of "Still Itchin'," and it only gets better when Fields adds his sizzling guitar and personal vocal. He's consistently impressive here as a singer, clearly the most underrated aspect of his many talents. His songs are about feelings, first, and he applies his emotive tenor to the aim of getting those feelings across with some punch, never once faltering. There's a nice swagger to his attitude in the pleas he sends up in the roiling album closer, "Guide Me To the Light," and a striking balance between seductive whispers and full-throated entreaties (along with a cool, descending "Pipeline"-like run down the guitar neck) in "Baby Come Back," along with the mood of regret-filled introspection he conjures in the aforementioned "Cold Wind Blowin'." All wound up though he be, Dave Fields lets it loose here with power and heart. Exceptional work all around. —David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024