Fertile Ground

Field Songs Revisited

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Field Songs is the debut album by the Baltimore, MD, sensation Fertile Ground. Why is the band a sensation? There isn't another act out there capable of more polish, sincerity, or creativity on a single album. Using the do-it-yourself aesthetic from the group's own Blackout Studios, this trio consists of composer/pianist/arranger James Collins, vocalist (and true soul diva) Navasha Daya, and drummer Marcus Asante. Field Songs is a document made in the soul traditions created by everyone from Gil Scott-Heron through Brian Jackson, Nina Simone, Terry Callier, Andy Bey, Harry Belafonte, Jon Lucien, and Caetano Veloso, as well as Marvin Gaye, Phoebe Snow, and Smokey Robinson, but here is updated in terms of its subject matter and musical sophistication for the 21st century. This band gives up nothing in the translation, from the gorgeous "Cotton Fields," with its historically ambivalent view of that which has both been given and taken away from the African-American experience, to the soul groove of "Soulmates," with its keyboard lines playing counterpoint to a slippery drum funk, to the moving emotionalism of "Black Sunshine," to the only non-original, "Lovin' You" (no, not that one), with its jazzed-up backbeats sounding like a torched-out tour de force. There isn't a weak link in this 14-song chain of blacknuss, soul-jazz, and sultry, artful, steamy groove. This is a band to watch.

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