What a difference a day makes, as Dinah Washington sang. In which case, how much difference can three years make?
The last time I saw Samantha Fish live was in 2014, about this time of year, on an another cold night in Edinburgh. She was supporting Mike Zito, in an uncomfortably large venue for the size of audience, and borrowing his rhythm section. As good as she was, and as good as Rob Lee and Scot Sutherland from The Wheel are, this performance was from a whole other dimension. Sam Fish has matured hugely in the intervening years.
|Samantha Fish - have a cigar, boy|
Whether it’s working with other producers and musicians, or honing her skills through incessant touring, young Ms Fish has become a band leader, full of poise and confidence to go with her vocal and guitar skills.
And what skills. As a singer, Sam Fish is astonishing. With her range and control, soaring and swooping with incredible clarity, she has a singular vocal style. And she makes the most of it with her delivery, telling stories expressively, whether it’s the cute humour of ‘Chills And Fever’, the smoky call and response passage with Mark Levron’s trumpet on ‘You’ll Never Change’, or the stunning simplicity of ‘Go Home’. How the hell she turns this in night after night is beyond me. Take good care of that voice girl.
As for the guitar, anyone thinking that song selections from the soul’n’rhythm’blues led Chills and Fever and the Americana-spun Belle Of The West would be lightweight reckoned without the rollicking rock’n’roll of her soloing on ‘Little Baby’, complemented by great bass runs from Chris Alexander. Or the slide guitar on ‘Blame It On The Moon’, building into a southern rock style crescendo before falling away into a delicate piano coda from Phil Breen. Or the extended and inventive, effects-tinged solo in a slowed down segment of ‘Somebody’s Always Trying’. Or the big licks with cigar box guitar on set closer ‘Crow Jane’. Or – well, you get the picture.
For me the absolute pick of the set, where all this comes together, is the aching torch song ‘Nearer To You’, culminating in a gut-wrenching finale of wailing vocals, interleaved with wild guitar that’s underpinned by walloping drumming from Kenny Tudrick. It’s a performance that completely transcends the album version.
Not much point in being a good band leader unless you have a crack band, of course, and
the boys backing
the front lady deliver on that front, deserving their showcases on ‘It’s Your
Voodoo Working’, Breen kicking off with a wicked organ solo. Levron and sax man Travis Blotsky offer up an
impressive horn duel, and Chris Alexander a cracking bass solo – and that’s a
phrase I don’t use very often – before Tudrick does a brief but telling bit of
tub thumping. Alexander in particular offers a good foil for his boss, grooving
and grinning in equal measure throughout.
|Acoustic, Americana, stunning simplicity|
As for the audience, she develops an effortless rapport with them, playful and funny, down to earth – and visibly into it, with her stylish Marilyn-style mop flailing around as she gets stuck in to a solo.
Regrets – I have a few. Nice to have her do a solo acoustic number for sure, but I reckon Belle Of The West offers stronger options than ‘Blood In The Water’, such as ‘Need You More’. I’d have loved to hear her amped up version of ‘Gone For Good’ as well. And it’s a shame she turns her back on material from before Wild Heart, as there’s still really good stuff in there, such as ‘Kick Around’.
There are times though, when you just need to take your sense of proportion, and chuck it out the window. And when the crowd were roaring “Right now, right now” on cue, as Sam and co rocked out on final encore ‘Bitch On The Run’, that time had long since passed. Don’t be a stranger Samantha.
Read the review of Belle Of The West here.
Read the Blues Enthused interview with Samantha Fish here.