PHOTO CREDIT: Ray Roberts
Naked Psycopathic Blues
Naked Psycopathic Blues is available at:
The album, Theodor Washington and the Central Valley, is available at:
2nd December, 2016
NOT too many reviews left for this calendar year…
PHOTO CREDIT: Ray Roberts
but there is always time for a fantastic solo artist. I have included, in these pages, quite a few throughout 2016 but none that sound quite like Lewis Fieldhouse. Before I come to him, and look at his music, it is prudent investigating the male solo artist and those who source inspiration from unusual places; a little bit about original vocals and music that hits various parts of the body. Quite an odd compendium of subjects but all fitting when thinking of Fieldhouse. I have been assessing and featuring my favourite albums from this year (mainstream) and what defines them. Among my top ten, there are few inclusions from male solo acts – James Blake is a rare exception – with the majority either being band-made or female-created. There has been, as I have stated before, a move away from bands and their dominance and towards solo artists – I feel the female artists have been getting (long overdue) dues. There is nothing to suggest this proliferation and focus will halt in 2017 – that is something quite heartening and pleasing. I am casting my mind around the mainstream works from this year and trying to think how many – those great, titan albums – derived from the boys. Kanye West and Frank Ocean perhaps; James Blake and David Bowie. Just looking at The Guardian’s run-down of their selected ten from 2016 and the opening gambits are mostly female-led. Apart from Kanye West (number four) there is Christine and the Queens, Rhianna; Anohni and Solange in their list. Bands are getting critical nods but there seems to be a surfeit of solo males creating extraordinary works. In the underground, there is hope to suggest that will change in future years. It is fascinating seeing trends change and various dynamics unfold. There was a time, not too many years ago, the boys were ruling the landscape – that is all changing now, thankfully. I am, with no small gratitude, pleased there are some great new male acts coming along. The new musicians I have witnessed this year possess more mobility, hunger and variegation than a lot of the best of the best. Lewis Fieldhouse is an artist who seems ready-made for the demands and challenges of the mainstream. Not your average turn-up-sing-some-pretty-songs-bugger-off artist: his music and words go beyond the average and elicit beautiful images. Before I carry on my point, and get to the music behind the man, it is apt we learn more about Lewis Fieldhouse:
PHOTO CREDIT: Juliette Carton Photography
“London-based Lewis Fieldhouse creates unapologetic alternative pop, with the raw touch of the American south-west. A story-teller at heart, Lewis has a lyrical eye for the absurd and sincere, offering up snippets of life coupling humour with honesty. His music evokes the lush sound of The Beach Boys and Father John Misty, with acoustic flair and undeniable hooks. In the past couple of years, Lewis’ work has caused a positive stir amongst music blogs like the The 405 and The Vinyl District, with It’s All Indie crowning him “one of the most exciting singer-songwriters in London at the moment.”
Originally from the north of England, Lewis arrived on the London circuit in 2013, by way of a number of “life affirming” road-trips in the US. Lewis is a self-professed ‘geography and Tolkien enthusiast’, with an impressive collection of colourful shirts. He describes his vibrant musical style as almost a rebellion against the darker, more hostile indie sounds he grew up with. In 2013 his debut single, The Water’s Fine, featured on the soundtrack to Emily Diana Ruth’s independent film of the same title. Glasswerk describe his first EP, Born Human, Raised Human, as Fieldhouse’s own “contemporary brand of infectious, sun-soaked acoustic alt-pop”. His tracks have spurred the attention of DJ’s at BBC London Introducing, Amazing Radio, as well as BBC2’s Janice Long. In 2015 Spreading the Seed called his latest single, Not Done Loving You “an acoustic pop masterpiece”, as Lewis continues to hone his combination of immediate hooks and flourishing guitar. Lewis is currently gigging in London and across the UK while working on his debut album. His next single, Goodbye, a nostalgic ode to summer love, will be aptly timed, hitting the airwaves in August 2015”.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ray Roberts
With Fieldhouse, you have a musician that stands in the mind instantly. In addition his suitcases of colourful shirts and his impressive social media platforms – lots of cool images and information – it is his stories and songbooks that get inside the head. Normally, when it comes to a lot of male artists, there is a dependence on relationship dramas and personal conflicts – maybe some inner-investigations and emotional outpourings. Essentially, there is little in the way of plot, progression and originality. Fieldhouse has, which is evident in his latest album, been influenced by the U.S. and his travels on the road. Not only going there to find himself and try to find answers: his songs reflect some unusual characters, weird landscapes and chance conversations. It is a travelogue of peculiar and charming adventures: like M.C. Esher and Picasso melting work, minds and thoughts – something twisted, bizarre utterly engrossing. It is hard to get to the core of Fieldhouse’s work – in terms of defection and genres – so it is best to be heard and experienced. In a way, he reminds me of John Grant: another artist whose big personality and unique songwriting stands out from everything else around. Whilst the Iceland-based American is taking time out to record a new album; Fieldhouse is presenting his – I shall come to that a bit later. Essentially, the London-based musician stands out by being himself. There is no pandering to the media and fitting into holes; no run-of-the-mill songs and radio-ready cuts. Because of that, critics and fans have been celebrating his work and tipping him as one of 2017’s great hopes. Whilst my favourite albums from this year have had some ‘predictable’ subjects at their heart – songs about heartache and struggle; unearthing personal torment – it is the performances and music that really gets to me. With Fieldhouse, you get an extra layer of intrigue. There is that incredible voice and luscious, interesting music: you get tales and lyrics that fizz with imagination and humour; cut with their honesty and rawness – so many contrasting emotions and ideas.
PHOTO CREDIT: James Byrne
Before I summon the discipline to cut to the quick, as it were, it is worth noting Lewis Fieldhouse for his colourful and full-bodied music. I alluded to artists who put little effort into their compositions and overall sound. It is becoming quite common in music and something that needs to be controlled. It is encouraging hearing artists like Fieldhouse adding verve, character and fascination into music: let’s hope others hear his lead and follow suit. What is so fascinating is the way (Fieldhouse) keeps things quite calm and controlled yet manages to evoke serious weight and atmosphere. Reviewers have compared Lewis Fieldhouse’s work with the likes of Father John Misty and The Beach Boys – that is no exaggeration and hyperbole. You get the lusciousness and harmonies of The Beach Boys with the sincerity and urgency of Father John Misty. There are elements (of other singers) in Fieldhouse’s music but, when you drill down, it is the man himself who stands out. I have heard a lot of artists this year who have each offered their own sound and ideas – there are few as striking and assured as Lewis Fieldhouse. Many new artists provide music that gets into the heart, body or mind – finding those who achieve that rare triumvirate is a long and arduous process. Fieldhouse is that lesser-heard musician who produces heartfelt, gorgeous vocals with compositions that provoke energy, movement and involvement. It is the candid and novelistic tales throughout Theodor Washington and the Central Valley that seduce the mind and imagination. I mentioned early – how many musicians concentrate on love strains – but Fieldhouse assesses and documents his travels and the people he meets; observations about society and what is happening in the world. Of course, there is a bit of heartbreak and romantic misadventure in there: by and large, songs are more imaginative and ambitious; mesmerising with their individuality rather than their relatable edge. Naked Psycopathic Blues, as one can guess from the title, is not your average ballad about a disreputable lover. It is part of a fascinating and colourful album whose adventurousness and strange sights are anchored by heart, humour and a human core.
Previous Lewis Fieldhouse compositions have shown strength and merit: his new material is the strongest and richest yet. The Water’s Fine was released a few years ago and contains a typical blend of soothing harmonies and rousing acoustics. It is a descriptive, involving and immediate song that draws you into events and captures immediately. Refugee, from the E.P., Born Human, Raised Human, is another beautiful and scintillating track that frames that amazing voice and luxuriant harmonies. If we wind forward a few years – and come to the debut album – one can hear that development and growth. The same components are there – in terms of the harmonies and compositions – but the subject matter is more intriguing and imaginative. On that same note, on Thedor’, one can detect new-found inspiration and energy. I have stated how many of the songs (on the album) do not directly address love but there are the odd moments. In fact, the turmoil and unpredictability are explored throughout the record employing various compositional shades and vocal nuances. I have found, when comparing the new and older work, the production is glossier and fuller; the confidence is hard to ignore whilst the singing is more emotive and heartfelt than ever. I can see another album arriving in a short space: it seems Fieldhouse is at his most inspired and vibing from his adventures and U.S. expeditions. Maybe current events, such as the U.S. election catastrophe, will compel new songs and lines. Whatever happens, it is encouraging hearing a songwriter in full flight.
Theodor Washington and the Central Valley was launched two weeks ago and as a result of a successful Kickstarter campaign. The fans’ faith in the material has meant a lot to Lewis Fieldhouse. Had the money not been raised, it would have been tragic to watch the album sit on the shelf – perhaps not seeing the light of day for a long while. It is perfectly timed because 2016 is coming to a close: a year that has seen so many unwanted events and timely deaths. The music is comforting and makes you forget your troubles; at the same time, it provides so many wonderful images and scenes. The listener is helpless but to engage in the physicality and directness of each song. Naked Psychopathic Blues’ title provokes instant interpretation. One envisages a crazy and bare-naked man raving and ranting; a derelict that is on the rampage perhaps. Whatever views and ideas you have ahead of time are evaporated and mutated after the first few notes. The opening seconds are as hard and grizzled as any on the album. If other songs stray towards Country, Alternative and Folk territory: here, we get a full-out balls-to-the-wall swagger. The percussion is tight and steel-fisted whilst the guitars wail, bite and groove their way into the spotlight. At once, you are elevated and motivated by the composition; physically moved and curious as to what is coming next. There seems to be some biography and personal relevance to the song’s lines. Noting how “We got married eighteen months ago today” seems to mirror Fieldhouse’s own life – having just celebrated eighteen months with his love. The song is certainly raw and direct. You feel, when the hero describes the rain dissipating against the weight of passion, that the carnality and spectacle of the coming-together is immune to gravity, compromise and reason. Maybe I am misreading but one feels that unity and recklessness: the desire to throw off the pressures of future and embrace the necessity of now.
PHOTO CREDIT: Juliette Carton Photography
Perhaps (the song) is less direct and more theoretical; maybe there is a fictional component coming to play. It is hard to misread lines that speak of doubting relatives and struggling-against-the-rock love. Many people, including parents of the sweethearts, felt the bond would not last. Perhaps the two are mismatched or have very different personalities – whether this was the case with Fieldhouse’s relationship – but there is a sadness and anger in the vocal. Maybe the sceptics are casting their aspersions at Fieldhouse/the hero. The girl is seen as a “trophy wife” and someone beyond conceivable reach of such a boy. Again, it is remiss to attribute the words directly to Fieldhouse but the parallels seem to fit. It is intriguing unpicking a song and getting right to the heart of the matter. It is galling hearing such negative words from the sweetheart’s parents. In a way, it has the ring of a classic love story. In classic novels, you hear of the down-trodden man or the social inequality of the lovers; the untraditional nature of love and how it flies in the face of social mores. In a rather nineteenth-century backdrop is the guise and blood of modern love. These two humans have fallen for one another but are facing the clucking tongues of those they seek acceptance from. As the story progresses, the title becomes somewhat oblique and byzantine. You do wonder what inspired that choice and whether it is the distillation of a genuine emotion – the embodiment of the anger and disgust felt by the hero. In spite of the strain and stresses felt by the hero: the vocals rise and the song starts to kick up a few gears.
PHOTO CREDIT: Juliette Carton Photography
Those lush and pleasing harmonies come in as the composition loosens and takes the song into its next phase. Fieldhouse changes from the man casting his mind back and recounting the story to someone with more bitterness and spite at heart. Maybe, and playing devil’s advocate again, there is fictionalisation and third-person narrative – maybe the song is looking at someone similar to him. The immature mate that is alcohol plays it roles and has infected the body of the hero. Hitting out at the girl and, deliberately it seems, causing wounds gives the song a sourness and sharp punch. It is contrary to the hopeful romanticism and struggles one hears in the previous verse. There is never attack from the hero but frank confession. Maybe having to battle so many oppressive voices has caused him to self-destruct and embrace a darker side. This virulent tonic that is released is causing scars and burns. As the song carries on, there is a line about making someone’s day – his wife’s/love’s mother it appears. Whether this relates to a moment of indiscretion and lust or walking in when they are at their most fraught and destructive – it seems like a told-you-so attitude would prevail. Fieldhouse gets more aggressive and charged as the words come out. Not his favourite woman it seems (the matriarchal figure is being put in her place) it seems like our hero is The Devil incarnated. There is a lot of tension and hatred in the house and it is fascinating finding out where true blame lies. True, the wagging finger from the mother is unjustified but it appears the hero is maybe acting out and engaging in futile rebellion. It seems this fight back is necessitated by an inflexible and judgmental tone from his girl’s parents. Now they are eighteen months down the line it seems like all the doubters can go to Hell. Naked Psycopathic Blues is the third song on Theodor Washington and the Central Valley and seems like a moment where Fieldhouse has to leave home and go somewhere less tense and unwelcoming. The fact he stands up for love and is so stubborn against the spitefulness is to be applauded. The entire song sticks its middle finger up and does not give a damn for idiocy. By the end, you know the lovers will get their way and be together no matter what anyone else says. Against the companion tracks of Theodor Washington and the Central Valley; Naked Psycopathic Blues is the standouts. It does look at love but in a way few other artists would dare. There are no tropes and lazy clichés: you get a mixture of emotions and a blend of classical heroism and modern poverty – in terms of emotions and depression. We know how things worked out for the pair: happily together and finding (albeit it not perfect) acceptance from in-laws and those around them. Looking back to a time where this passion was taboo is quite an eye-opening experience. Thankfully the entrenched sweethearts dug in their heels and followed their hearts.
He Hath Made You Rich is one of the standouts from the album and begins with gentility and soothe. The strings are soft and light; the vocal at its exquisite best. In many ways, the track reminds me of U.S. Soul legends and harmony groups like Boyz II Men. The Boyz’ were renowned for their extraordinary, velvet tones and heart-stopping beauty. I can hear a little of that in the song: the vocal is so chocolate-like and sweet; it has a calm and reflective nature but is direct and hard. Perhaps looking at a lover or someone gone: one senses the hero is pauper-like and willing to try again; regretting past decisions and looking on from the window. Perhaps events have transpired that makes love impossible and unrealistic. Whatever the origins, it is a song that glistens and glides; it grabs the heart and gets into the mind instantly. Live So Fast, Kiss So Slow is on the “wrong side of the tracks” and “drinking ginger and rum”. The hero is taken home by the girl and, right from the off, you get images of U.S. roads and lights ahead. Some of the album’s smartest lyrics (the girl taking advantage of the hero’s XY chromosome is beautifully executed) are here as are some of the most spirited guitar lines. The song has an infectious bounce and itinerant jog. One is infused and lifted by the energy and panache of the song. Showing what contrast and range there is on the album: Fieldhouse unleashes one of his most vivid and fascinating songs. You follow the tale and the imbalance of unrequited love. It is less about the ill nature and poor fate of events; more concerning the details and landscapes; the humour and buzz that is audible throughout. Fieldhouse sounds at his most alive and adventurous here. The entire album emanated from a (rather less-than-happy) trip to the U.S. Fieldhouse had intended to discover himself and drink in the scenes and sights of America. Rocked by personal tragedy in the U.K. and strain in the U.S. – the album’s themes and emotions reflect this upheaval.
PHOTO CREDIT: James Byrne
Great White Hope seems to be an assessment of the struggle and tangle of home and America: that need to get straight and find feet once more. It is “too late for me” as the hero says; not too late for the song’s heroine. That need to get a job and evade the pollution (both social and vehicular) of the city. It is another buoyant and mobile song that mixes elements of Country and Alternative into another album standout. Megan, Are You Goin’ My Way? is our hero heading for San Francisco and looking to cadge a ride it seems. The girl might be going that way but is a bit more reluctant. The lead wants to get away from the urban sprawl and concrete anxieties. He is looking to the horizons and using supplication on the heroine – asking if she will come with him. Here you get a portmanteau and proprietary blend of cherry red and sharp white – a heady wine that swims in the senses and elicits a relaxing kiss but makes you think. In a way, the album is a concept piece that follows a story arc. Megan, Are You Goin’ My Way? was the lead-off – our boy heading for a new place and wondering what is ahead. Istanbul is that travel back home. Appropriately, the song is another restrained and delicate number that perfectly ends things. Maybe Istanbul would have been a nice destination: somewhere away from where he is and a lot more agreeable than where he is now – perhaps a nice dream but not to be. There is wistfulness and sense of pining that comes out in the song. Fieldhouse has a love in mind and carries her with him (whether physically or emotionally). That raw and unquenchable desire keeps protruding and niggling at the hero. Looking back at regrets and indiscretion: this is the chance to make things right and redress the balance of things. The erudition that is displayed in each of the ten tracks is as a result of a life-changing and eye-opening trip. That time in the U.S. was not as wasted and fraught as one would imagine. Fieldhouse met some odd characters and great barroom tales; wide roads and quixotic nature – the contrasts and complexities of the country. In essence, realisation and clarity were obtained. Theodor Washington and the Central Valley is a wonderful and vast album that takes you on the plane and down the road. You are an uncredited companion of Fieldhouse and looking through his eyes. Songs switch from emotional and vulnerable to rousing and intense. Fieldhouse’s voice is consistently sharp, divine and varied throughout. Able to make every line and verse sound essential and compelling: there are not many artists that achieve that.
PHOTO CREDIT: Juliette Carton Photography
There is not much too much time left to make a big impression on the yet Lewis Fieldhouse might have done that with his debut album. So full of treasure, life and appeal: it takes a long time for every song to truly unveil its beauty, truths and full potential. I admire a lyricist who can provide something interesting and thought-provoking. I will not exsanguinate the body of the argument – with regards lyrics and making them stand out – but this year’s finest albums/creations are defined by relevant/strong words. I have argued against those albums most critics select as their 2016 favourite – although their long-list is pretty spot on. Such a busy and quality-strewn year for music that has seen some of this decade’s best albums produced. I am sure 2017 will keep the momentum strong and inspire those musicians coming through at the minute. That is the dynamic we need to see fostered and funded: mainstream’s best providing impetus and energy to the newcomers. The most exciting thing about music is seeing great new artists make strides: start climbing their way to the giddy heights of mainstream’s apex. I predict Lewis Fieldhouse will get there as he is one of the most curious and interesting musicians around. Not just one of London’s finest: music that has spread across the country and will cross to other continents very soon. It is not often artists experiment with Americana, Folk and Alternative ideas – fewer still who pull it off with aplomb. I am interested to see where Fieldhouse goes in 2017. There is going to be more music (naturally) but what form that takes is down to him. It would be good seeing an E.P. down the line: a nice between-the-albums release that follows from Theodor Washington and the Central Valley and provides the same sorts of tales, tease and tribulations. It is hard, with all the best artists, to really distill Fieldhouse’s essence and describe such an album (as Theodor Washington and the Central Valley). Exciting times ahead for the London-based artist. Capping off a busy and vital musical year; Fieldhouse can relax (a little) over the next couple of weeks before deciding what his next move is. The days are ticking down and we are looking ahead to the musicians who will be doing good things next year. I have heard a lot of really great artists who have the mannerisms, ability and sight to reach the upper echelons and mingle alongside this year’s very finest. I have heard so many average acts come along and there are precious few that pull you in and overwhelm the senses. Lewis Fieldhouse is one such artist; someone who has a lot more left to say. He may be one of the standouts from the capital’s musicians. When it comes to musicians that provide a unique blend of travelogue-cum-characterful lyrics, gorgeous vocals and detailed compositions…
LET’S hope he isn’t the last!
Follow Lewis Fieldhouse
PHOTO CREDIT: Ray Roberts