As with all things in life, I ended up having to sweet-talk my way through the back door of the Music Box with a cocktail waitress named Kirby who I had known for all of 10 minutes. Surprisingly, this was not the highlight of my night.
Adorned in stiletto ruffle button ups and three-piece suits Chicano Batman hit the stage like singers at a low rider themed wedding. Their entire set felt like going to a Baptist church–highly spiritual, energetic, and musically transcendental.
They create hybridization of soul that utilizes a variety of Latino genres to create a sound all their own. Their new record “Freedom is Free” is an insightful musical commentary on the controversial social and political issues of our time and definitely a specimen to the evolution in their sound.
The themes in their lyrics juxtapose the idealized freedom found in the natural world with the injustice and destruction found in human society. However, when you think of conscious protest music you don’t necessarily think of something that lays it on so sweet and thick. Their sound is Mexican soul food, a wonderful plate of fried chicken mole, buttermilk flan biscuits, and a side of Mexican yam rice served with a loaded gun.
Lee Fields is a celebratory voice for those who’ve lived long enough to’ve seen some shit and hard enough to’ve treasured the times when their hearts were broken. Songs like “Special Night” and “Faithful Man” are representations of a vulnerable soul and ruminations on the emotions we all feel when we love blindly. He draws from a frailty that lets a man know its ok to cry and from and unabashed confidence that warns a woman when she’s about to get some real lovin’.
What keeps his primal honesty from becoming cliché or cloying is Fields’ backing band, The Expressions. They punctuate each raw, heartfelt admission with pealing call and response horns, smooth guitar comping, and genius grooves that never once compete with the voice. By the time the last melodies faded away, Lee Fields had given everything a man could give—love, pain, grit, soul and even an encore.