Under a Searchlight Moon (EP) - Dean Fields

Time was that EPs existed in a twilight zone, most often giveaway anthologies you could grab by the handful at the local record shop on your way out, often an impulse that never saw follow-through once you got home, soon in the wastebasket. That's now reversed, and this CD very much shows why. In an age where independent artists are kicking the unliving bejeezus out of the mainstream in every conceivable fashion, short-form discs are growing in importance as the tool whereby waters can be tested and the expenses of a 10 to 15 track release, which can take quite a while to pony up, can be put off for a bit. Conversely, full spectrum attention can be lavished on a menu of, as is the case here, 5 songs, and, man, does Dean Fields ever polish that framework well.

What sold me on this gent was the video to "Forever Never Knowing", the sophomore track to Under a Searchlight Sky, a very cool three-minute interplay of humor, surrealism, and urban experimentalism (catch it at www.deanfields.com) that would appeal to Magritte, Ingmar Bergman, and Mr. Rogers. A singer-composer-guitarist in the vein of David Wilcox, John Gorka, Cliff Eberhardt, Chris DeBurgh, and others, city folkie Fields favors the mid-ground between metropolitan sidewalks and ruralia (Trey Pollard's lap steel providing much of the latter) while singing of the everyday, of folk like you and me or of people we know, even the sharper-edged ones:

A tongue like a hammer and a mouth full of nails
A watchdog's bark and a cat o' nine tails
Well, ain't it been a hard one, livin' on a bank loan
Honey, you been lovin' like no one's ever done

…not the glitterati or the devils and angels of metaphor. And this may be because his lyrics arrive in the first person, intimate, familiar, grinning with a shy but quite knowing smile. Each song comes through as though delivered in person, from across the kitchen table over a cup of coffee at lunch or perhaps on a porch as the sun westers into afternoon. Thus, the combination of sparse airy foregrounds and well-sketched musical backgrounds paint a 360-degree canvas all around the central figure, the classroom/diner troubadour speaking of hearts, flesh, and harmony…as strangely as that last element may oft manifest and as warmly maddening as the struggle to achieve it too often is.

My favorite track is the closer, "Could've Been" - which reminds of Dave Loggins' "Please Come to Boston", Richard Torrance's moodier moments, the wistful side of Michael Tomlinson, and a windblown sky in late autumn with a lonely lover pining for time away from the distances of the real world - but every cut here is of a piece, marvelously crafted, lovingly rendered, and gently demanding attention.


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