ALBUM REVIEW: Samantha Fish and Jesse Dayton Rock Hard on ‘Death Wish Blues’
Samantha Fish and Jesse Dayton come at rock generally from different angles — she from the blues, he from country. Nevertheless, they have a lot in common. Both pen sharply drawn songs that help them put an indelible personal stamp on blues-rock and country-rock, respectively. Both deliver those songs with a bold, unvarnished musical approach. And, oh yeah, both are pretty mean guitar slingers.
For Death Wish Blues, Fish and Dayton teamed up with producer Jon Spencer, whose own sometimes arch mashup of punk, blues, and surf was delivered with an in-your-face garage-rock aesthetic. And it’s clear from the start — with the blues-rock of the Fish-sung “Deathwish” and the Dayton-led “Down in the Mud” — that the two singers are ready to revel in some of the rawest and most hard-hitting music of their careers.
At times, the music seems on the verge of spinning out of control, adding to the visceral thrill. “Trauma,” with lead vocals by Dayton, descends into some of the heaviest rock on the set. “Flooded Love,” with both sharing lead, settles into a steady groove before suddenly shifting tempo and teetering on chaos.
Not everything, however, is heavy in theme or music. Fish and Dayton, who co-wrote most of the 10 tracks, engage in some lighthearted dialogue on the funky “Riders” and the chugging “Lover on the Side,” while Dayton takes lead on “Supadupabad,” an obvious salute to “Superfly.”
Fish and Dayton do a lot of semi-rapping of verses, underlining the brashness of most of the material and giving it a modern edge. Two numbers, however, take a different tack. “No Apology” is slow and gentle, with Fish trading her tough-chic persona for a more vulnerable and open-hearted one. A similar vibe pervades the acoustic-textured album closer, “Know My Heart,” in which she and Dayton express undying devotion: “Still no one holds a candle to you.”
But it’s a related sentiment in the rocking “Dangerous People,” sung by both, that gets to this duo’s mutual attraction and the red-hot appeal of their no-holds-barred first album together: “You’re my kind of crazy, baby!”
Samantha Fish and Jesse Dayton’s Death Wish Blues is out May 19 on Rounder Records.