This coming Valentine’s Day, New York City-based blues guitar player Dave Fields will release his seventh studio album, Unleashed. In a career that spans writing jingles for the likes of IBM and Publishers Clearing House, working with legendary British bluesman John Mayall, and getting inducted into the NY Blues Hall of Fame in 2012, Fields is definitely making the most of his musical talents. And with an album title like Unleashed, he’s certainly building up some kind of anticipation. And I must say, Unleashed is a fitting title.
The album opens with “Anticipating You,” an instrumental jam more on the jazz side of things. It also starts what’s a regular occurrence on the album. Though he bills himself as a blues player, Fields goes on long shredding passages like he’s an 80’s hair metal guitarist.
If you want an idea about what kind of lyricist Fields is, look no further than “Child of the World.” The song is about having to deal with all the bad things currently happening in the world, like terrorists and people who have extremist thinking. And Fields says he’s on a “love crusade” to try and right these wrongs. It’s the kind of lyrics you’d hear from a 1960’s artist, but trying to specifically address modern day topics in that exact way sounds odd.
The blues aspects really come out on songs like “My Mama’s got the Blues” and “The Boy Wants to Play,” the former sounding like it comes straight from Memphis and the latter having backing singers and more of a soul/gospel feel, even if it is about a boy wanting sex. Meanwhile, the two-parter “Jagged Line” probably gives the best example of Field’s attempt to blend these varying styles together. The rock guitar, backing organ sounds, and blues lyrics about growing up with a hard life, gives any passive listener a good idea of where modern blues music is heading or what it’s trying to be.
Starting at “Better Be Good,” another song about trying to love one another in the face of terrorism and corrupt governments, the album suddenly transitions to a live set at a NYC blues club. From there, he makes his Jimi Hendrix influences bright as day with a faithful cover of “Hey Joe” and his own rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. It wasn’t a note-for-note recreation of the Hendrix version (I don’t think that’s possible), but he does make some impressive runs that leave any fan of shredding pleased.
The two songs that end the album couldn’t be further from the rest of the album. “New York City Nights” is the only real ballad here, with Fields switching to acoustic guitar and backed by synth strings. Meanwhile, “Les Hoedown” is easily the fastest song here. An instrumental featuring very fast guitar plucking that sounds like Jeff Beck doing rockabilly, with the drum fills and bass managing to keep up.
I have no doubt an audience for this music exists, for those who like frequenting establishments who play blues, roots, or Americana music. And if you do appreciate shredding and fretting guitar playing, Fields is worth a listen.
Key Tracks: Jagged Line (Pts. 1 & 2), The Boy Wants to Play, Pocket Full of Dust (live)