The Upshot: A true blues star emerging to international prominence.
BY TOM CALLAHAN
It was hard not to take notice of Samantha Fish. A beautiful young woman in her mid-20’s on stage in a short skirt with legs that go straight up to heaven and a blues guitar sound that goes right down to hell. Often barefoot on stage with a cigar box guitar, this Kansas City native plays a dirty slide, turning a classic like “Shake ‘Em On Down” into a blues exorcism. This is slide plying you do not hear much anymore, a homage to the masters like Elmore James and Duane Allman. On her first two albums, she also showed her potential with intense vocals and excellent original songwriting.
But you had to wonder how this Kansas City girl found the devil’s music. Now on her third release, Wild Heart we get a clue. Fish has been traveling the backroads of Louisiana and Mississippi and enlisted Luther Dickinson as producer of the CD. It shows. Excellent choice. Dickinson has blues in his blood. He is a founder of the North Mississippi All Stars and son of the legendary Jim Dickinson, who is about as Memphis as Elvis.
What Samantha has been edging toward all along has found a home and perfect expression on Wild, her strongest work yet. Mississippi Hill Country Blues is like no other blues in the world, as far removed from its Delta Blues cousin as you could be. Hill Country Blues, with its emphasis on rhythm, percussion and few chord changes, was called trance music when played by the late slide masters Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside. Those masters are gone but their kin folk joined Dickinson in creating the North Mississippi All Stars.
Wild is an excellent record. It is not all Hill Country blues. There is a country blues cover of a song by Delta blues father, Charley Patton, “Jimmy Lee Blues, Pt 1” and a fine Southern ballad, “Lost Myself.” But when you hear Fish’s guitar crescendo on “Highway’s Holding Me” and the slide riff that starts “Blame it on the Moon” and the angry slide on “Turn it Up” you are hearing songs that could easily approach trance status if expanded on stage. Indeed, they might be so hot performed live that barefoot Samantha might have to protect her bare feet. It will certainly be interesting to see.
Besides, producing, Luther Dickinson plays bass, lap steel and mandolin. Other Hill country stars like Lightnin Malcolm and Sharde Thomas, a Mississippi fife drum player and granddaughter of the legendary Othar Turner, guest star.
Wild shows Samantha Fish emerging as a true blues star. This CD is worth listening to and Samantha Fish is worth following.
DOWNLOAD: “Road Runner,” “Highway’s Holding Me Now,” “Turn it Up”