Monday, November 28, 2011

Dean Fields: "Under A Searchlight Moon" (2011) CD Review

"A tongue like a hammer and a mouth full of nails." That's the opening line of Dean Fields' new CD. The first time I put it on, I had aimed to get some other things done in my apartment while listening. But that line grabbed me, and I set aside everything else to just listen. And then listened again. And again.

Though Dean Fields has been performing for ten years, this EP was my introduction to this singer/songwriter. And if these five songs are a true indication of his talent, then Dean Fields is definitely someone to pay attention to. Under A Searchlight Moon isn't a solo effort. There is a band, and unlike some folk albums with bands, the other instruments sound inherent to the songs, rather than forced or simply added in the studio. But it is the album's lyrics that really impressed me. All of the songs are originals, written by Dean Fields.

"Tongue Like A Hammer"

"Tongue Like A Hammer" opens with a short acoustic guitar intro before that line that grabbed me. With a line like that, I wasn't expecting the song to be sweet. But this song has an undeniable beauty, and some wonderful lyrics. Here is a taste: "So let me prove you wrong/All your ever-present doubt and your endless questions/Honey, let me love you like no one's ever done." (I also have to mention another phrase that made me smile: "A watchdog's bark and a cat o'nine tails.") This song also features some nice work by Trey Pollard. I really liked this song from the first listen, and each time I play this EP I like it more.

"Forever Never Knowing"

"Forever Never Knowing" immediately wins you over with its catchy folk rhythm. Its lyrics actually made me laugh out loud, catching me off guard, with its line about the hat ("I held onto you holding onto your hat/How about that?/I've never seen you wear one before") and these lines: "You get pretty/You just keep going/That's why we're late for everything we ever do/Still I'll spend forever never knowing/How I live life living without you." This song also has the EP's title in its lyrics: "So I'm holding onto you under a big wide searchlight moon." I love this song's mixture of beauty and humor - I think it's exactly that combination that makes this song feel true.

"Something's Gotta Give"

Sometimes a song will directly address exactly what you're feeling or experiencing in your life at the time you first hear it, and so it immediately feels important. That's how it was for me with "Something's Gotta Give." This is the song from this EP that really got to me. In this one, Dean sings, "Something's gotta give/If I ain't giving up/'Cause this ain't no way to live/Something's gotta give/If I ain't giving up/I ain't giving up." I love songs that are sad and positive at the same time, songs that are full of hope because hope is all there is left. "Something's Gotta Give" is one of my favorite songs of the year.

"Nowhere Fast"

"Nowhere Fast" is a more upbeat song, opening with a burst of energy that's a bit jarring after the previous song. But it doesn't take long for you to catch up and switch moods. This song even has a cool lead guitar section. And this warning: "If you're taking me, you'd better be taking heed." It ends with the phrase, "making the best of disaster," which is great.

"Could've Been"

Dean's vocals really come to the fore on the EP's final track, "Could've Been." This is a slower song, and once again features some good lyrics. It begins and ends with the line, "I'll be here tomorrow." The last lines are, "Show me all your reasons/Disappointments/Show me/Show me what could've been/I'll be here tomorrow."

CD Track List

  1. Tongue Like A Hammer
  2. Forever Never Knowing
  3. Something's Gotta Give
  4. Nowhere Fast
  5. Could've Been


Musicians appearing on this CD include Dean Fields on guitar and vocals, Curtis Fye on bass and vocals, Wells Hanley on drums and piano, Trey Pollard on guitar and pedal steel, and Erika Sato on violin.

Under A Searchlight Moon was released on March 15, 2011. For those in the Boston area, Dean Fields will be doing a series of concerts with Lori McKenna at Club Passim in Cambridge in December. Those should be some seriously good shows.

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