No one can accuse Samantha Fish of letting the grass grow around her feet. 2017 has been a busy year for the singer and guitarist – she’s released two wildly different albums while maintaining a relentless touring schedule. Fish’s knack for churning out high-octane electric blues with a healthy dose of slide guitar made her a star on the blues festival circuit. In the past year, Fish has broadened her musical palette. Chills and Feverwas a collection of soul covers that showcased polished musicianship and a razor-sharp horn section. The newly released Belle of the West is a more downhome affair that finds Fish exploring the sounds of country and Americana while refining her talents as a songwriter.
Fish’s Dec. 9 performance at Long Island’s Boulton Center for the Performing Arts left no doubt that she’s grown into a multifaceted artist and powerhouse performer. From the opening notes of Barbara Lewis’ “Hello Stranger,” it was clear that her touring band has evolved into a well-oiled machine. The rhythm section was in the pocket, and the two-piece horn section added a layer of deep soul. Even with all of the musical muscle assembled onstage, Fish’s soaring vocals cut right through the mix. Other Chills and Fever tracks, like “He Did It” and “Nearer to You,” blossomed onstage and demonstrated how much Fish has grown as a vocalist.
Talking to the audience, Fish described Belle of the West – recorded in Mississippi with Luther Dickenson in the producer’s chair – as a “different trip” than her previous work. For the title track, Fish donned an acoustic guitar and was joined onstage by violinist Rebecca Crenshaw, whose playing and harmony vocals added a healthy dose of country grit. The self-penned “Daughters” featured great interplay between fiddle and acoustic guitar while the lyrics offered a glimpse into the soul of a rising star from Kansas City. It was remarkable to hear how deftly Fish was able to switch musical gears. In a single performance, she went from high-octane rocking soul to a country sound as rich and downhome as hot chicken with sweet tea.
Fish closed the show by returning to her first musical love – the blues. A wave of applause rose from the crowd as she plugged in her cigar box guitar and started churning out the searing slide licks that first put her on the map. Fish’s ability to roar through so many different American musical styles without breaking a sweat make her one of the most exciting acts on today’s roots music scene. Her career has been an exciting ride, and we can only guess where it will go next.