When he wrote, “You’ve Got To Suffer If You Want To Sing The Blues,” bluesman David Bromberg wryly addressed the ostensible need for long (and preferably sad) life experience to play blues. However, if you’re 22 years old, live in the Midwest, and have reviewers claim you “paid your dues” after a mere two decades of life, can you really sing the blues?
The answer here is yes, especially when supported by great technique, which Samantha Fish demonstrates magnificently on this debut solo album. One reviewer likens her to Alvin Lee of Ten Years After, while others place her in the pantheon of contemporary female guitarists, including Ana Popovic. No mere clone, Fish is also inventive in the way that Hendrix, Jimmy Page, John Fogerty, and Bonnie Raitt made the guitar speak just for them.
Runaway shows Fish knows the idioms: swamp, boogie, rockabilly, driving blues-rock, and even torchy jazz. She uses some classic-sounding licks, which she’s reinvented, as well as intricate chording. Her use of multi-tracking on this CD allows her to add marvelous texture as she plays counterpoint to herself. The finely crafted original tunes address common themes, with no clichés either in lyrics or in playing.
While the songs may suggest influences like Susan Tedeschi, Raitt, or the relatively milder Joss Stone, Fish does not imitate anyone. Runaway is an album that anyone older will definitely appreciate and note the many influences, the superb talent, and the soulful ability to sing – and fling – the blues. Notable tracks include the opener, “Down In The Swamp,” followed by the rockabilly-inflected title track, and “Today’s My Day,” which sounds like an unreleased track from an early Bonnie Raitt album. For a nice slow turnaround, “Feelin’ Alright” is a smoky jazz club number calling to mind Cassandra Wilson or even Nina Simone and beautifully ends the CD sequencing.
Fish began music as a 15-year-old drummer whose parents set limits on basement drumming. She therefore picked up the relatively quieter guitar and took it to astounding places. Considering she has been playing the instrument for less than a decade, it’s astounding how far she’s come. Her CD debut was really on Girls With Guitars, part of the 2011 Ruf Records Blues Caravan Tour, featuring two smoking female guitarists, Britain’s Dani Wilde and Otis Taylor’s daughter, Cassie. On Runaway, Taylor assists beautifully on bass and backing vocals, while Jamie Little handles percussion.
Originally published on Blueswax, the online presence of Blues Revue.
Review by Michael Cala
November 11, 2011