Sunday, July 5, 2015

Samantha Fish - Wild Heart

One thing about Samantha Fish, she’s adventurous – not for her a steady stream of 12 bar boogie.  Her first two albums displayed a range of styles, and her new release Wild Heart continues in that vein.  Much has been made of Luther Dickinson being in the producer’s chair this time around, but anyone expecting this outing simply to pay homage to the North Mississippi Allstars’ should think again.
There have been country aspects to Fish’s material before, and here she manages to weave that influence into the blues, as demonstrated by the swinging ‘Blame It On The Moon’ (showcasing Dickinson’s lap steel talents), the dreamy, haunting ‘Lost Myself’, and a playful take on Charley Patton’s ‘Jim Lee Blues Pt.1’.
Sam does cigar box slide
But Sam still rocks too. ‘Highway’s Holding Me Now’ harks back most clearly to the likes of ‘Heartbreaker’ from her previous work.  She then wrenches out some gritty slide on the rousing ‘Turn It Up’, which I’m guessing offered an outing for her 4-string cigar-box guitar.  ‘Bitch On The Run’, meanwhile, cuts loose with a high-revving, Stonesy riff and a squealing slide solo.
In fact I could imagine Mick’n’Keef drooling over much of this album, although the overall effect conjured up more often recalls the earlier work of those students of hill country blues, the Black Keys.
Above all else though, that singular pearl of a voice continues to enthral.  Fish stands out vocally among female blues singers.  Her voice doesn’t have the rasp of a Bonnie Raitt or Susan Tedeschi, for example, nor is she a power-focused blues bawler.  Instead she soars and swoops, ringing out clear as a bell, skipping around the scale, but ever capable of easing back into a tender drawl.  Carefree and careworn are both conveyed in her own distinctive style.  She may be a damn good guitarist, but Sam Fish's voice is a USP if ever there was one.
Quibbles are few.  The opening 'Road Runner' isn't up to her usual standards, while the title track, built on a tense and urgent riff reminiscent of Heart’s ‘Barracuda’, could develop more.  And drummer Brady Blade is a mite too fond of a wet, splashy cymbal sound – something more emphatic would be welcome here and there.  Like I said, quibbles.

Highlights are difficult to pluck out from this lot, but here are two.  ‘Show Me’ offers up a memorable, descending riff that, with the assistance of Blade’s drumming, turns into a lurching stomp that wouldn’t sound out of place on Physical Graffiti.  And to close proceedings, our Sam takes the trance-like hill country blues of Junior Kimbrough’s ‘I’m In Love With You’, and turns it into something achingly romantic.  If there were any justice in the world, this would be a hit single.  But for now, Sam Fish is our secret.

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