Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Samantha Fish - Tipitina's, New Orleans, 1 May 2021

A solo show by Samantha Fish, armed with just a few guitars and her singular voice, ain’t your everyday occurrence.  I wasn’t there in N'Awlins of course.  Chance would be a fine thing.  But I could still see it via the wonders of YouTube – and you can too.
Strapping on her Taylor acoustic, Mam’selle Fish embarks on a no-half-measures performance comprising 21 songs and lasting nearly 2 hours.  It takes her a few songs to really hit top gear and capture the crowd, perhaps, but there’s no doubt she gets there in the end.
Of course, Samantha has recorded numerous acoustic or semi-acoustic numbers over the
Samantha Fish - Taylor in hand, just not in NOLA!
years, that offer up natural cornerstones for this kind of set.  Early on for example, ‘Blood In The Water’ is tense and spooky, with some steely soloing, and delicate vocals towards the end.  And at the other end of the show, the first encore ‘Go Home’ is a perfect fit, so disarmingly simple and with a wonderful lyric.  I’ve seen her stun an audience into silence with it, and it works its magic here too.
‘Blame It On The Moon’ is swinging and relaxed, before getting sturdier as it progresses.  Late in the set her take on ‘Jim Lee Blues’ is sprightly, witty and charming, and goes down a storm, and she follows that up by with an achingly vulnerable and delicate reading of ‘Need You More’.
There are moments of soul with a capital S drawn from Chills And Fever.  The title track is as cheeky as ever, if not more so, even reduced to minimalist ticking guitar.  She does a great job of stripping back Bettye Lavette’s ‘You’ll Never Change’, with an infernally catchy guitar backing for her warm vocal, and ‘Hello Stranger’ is aural comfort food.  Her own songs in this vein add a layer of complexity to the formula though.  ‘Kill Or Be Kind’ is a dark and edgy tune, a bitter-sweet dare to the object of desire, while in its acoustic form ‘She Don’t Live Here Anymore’ combines restraint with rich guitar playing in a boundary-blurring manner.  Is it soul?  Is it Americana?  Does it matter?
She throws a few wild cards into the mix to keep everyone guessing.  Her swaying and rippling cover of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘I’ll Be Here In The Morning’ underlines her Americana interests, but is that a grimace at a fluffed note in the solo?  Rather better, for me, is her version of Gladys Knight’s ‘If I Were Your Woman’, a terrific, impassioned take on a dark love song.  But the best surprise of all is a rare performance of her own ‘Let’s Have Some Fun’.  It’s intimate and sexy, and a reminder that though she doesn’t draw much on Runaway and Black Wind Howlin’ these days, there are still more than a few little gems on those albums.  (And if she’d like to haul ‘Kick Around’ out of the closet for her next British tour, that would do me very nicely, thanks very much!)
But there’s still room in the show for Fish to apply a bit of muscle.  Her SG at the ready, she rouses the audience into a singalong on the loping, insistent ‘No Angels’, on which she sets up a loop with the riff as a foundation for her most rockin’ and rollin’ solo to that point.  The rollicking middle-finger-salute of ‘Gone For Good’ features some helter-skelter slide playing, and on the spiky ‘Black Wind Howlin’’ her jagged, shrapnel-like soloing raises hollers from the crowd.
Her now legendary cigar box guitar is introduced from the wings to whoops of appreciation, unleashing a fuzzed-up, hair-tousling (hers not mine, of course) run through ‘Bulletproof’ – though I remain to be convinced that her use of a dynamic vocal microphone for the chorus adds any real value.  Never mind, the second encore of ‘Runaway’ is a pulsating, rocking, revved-up affair to dispel such details.
Throughout all of this, despite being all on her ownsome for this performance, Samantha is relaxed, funny, and engaging, even happy to ask “You ready for the silliest guitar solo you’ve heard?” in the middle of blasting through the punkish rock’n’roll of ‘Love Your Lies’.  The coronavirus pandemic has been a brutal time for professional musicians, but it’s good to see that Samantha Fish, at least, is still smiling.

You can find Samantha Fish's Tipitina's show on YouTube, here.  (Or search for "Tipitina's Samantha Fish.)  Her performance starts 6:35 into the stream.
The YouTube stream is free, but you can 'tip' Samantha Fish via Paypal.


  1. Awesome review as always! This was a rare gem, and Samantha showed amazing command and comfort throughout.

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