Samantha Fish – Belle of the West (Review)

Released on November 3rd 2017 through Ruf Records and produced by Luther Dickinson, this is Samantha Fish’s second album of 2017. Samantha has risen through the years and is now one of the main faces of modern blues music. She recently had an interview in Total Guitar and it was wonderful. I met her 3 years ago when she did a gig at the Iron Road in Evesham, and she completely rocked the place with not only her killer music but also her down to earth attitude and charisma. I’m really looking forward to finally sitting down and listening to this album and hear her new ‘big’ sound. The album features artists from Amy LaVere, Tikyra Jackson, Shardé Thomas and Lillie Mae.

We kick of the album with American Dream and it surely is a great start to the album. The big bass drum sound delivers a heart thumping pound to the song. The lyrics are pretty straight to the point… she’s living the american dream, yes we know Samantha, you’re getting famous now! Personally, I think the acoustic guitar doesn’t sit perfectly in the mix, it sounds far back where it should really be quite prominent like Sam’s vocals, but that’s a personal preference. The fiddle’s really capture the country blues twang though, Dynamically, the song builds and it’s a strong, safe start to the album.

Blood in the Water is really catchy and blends lovely, loose harmonies together in the key of the song. The song is quite dark and soulful. It has attitude and a lot of “balls” to it. The guitar solo basically follows the harmony melody but it really does scream and captures the whole song. The guitar solo keeps it all together in my eyes. It’s like putting a cherry on top of a tasty cake, without the cherry it would be pretty bare. I guess there’s only so much you can do with blues, but whatever Samantha does with keeping blues so modern, she does it well.

Americana blues defines the next song “Need You More”. It tells the story of longing for that special person. I have this feeling that Samantha is crying about longing for her loved one (wherever that’s a partner or a family member) while she’s on the road touring. It’s a lovely little heart wrenching song that deals with real situations of missing someone. Technically, the song doesn’t do much as it’s quite simple, but emotionally it does make you feel something and empathise whatever she’s singing about.

“Cowtown” means a small, isolated town. This song is the longest song on the album so far. I feel it could have been so much shorter as this song is screaming for a biggest arrangement. It’s upbeat but needs the drums harder and bass line complicated. It does still work with this arrangement, but I feel it could have a much bigger sound as it has so much more potential. I really do admire Sam’s voice though, I don’t know how to manage’s to do those sassy vocal rolls all the time, I guess it’s her delicacy.

We start the next song, “Daughters” with some really interesting drum patterns. They don’t sound like they’ve been over produced which I really like as it fits the song really nicely. The rawness of this song captures my heart so far. The backing keyboard with a tremolo effect is really gloomy and eerie. It’s mainly quite a moody song about daughters breaking people’s heart which is an interesting subject in itself, but something about it is really making it stick out on the album.

Samantha has this way with her music that she takes what feels like pop lyrics and makes it into blues which to me is really interesting, maybe to others it’s not their cup of tea. “Don’t Say You Love Me” captures how lovely her voice is and you can feel every emotion. I must say though, I do prefer her old stuff from her 2015 “Wild Heart“album, she really did rock out then and used her guitar as a weapon with the screaming solos. This album is highly missing that so far. It seems like she’s gone back to the americana roots, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but c’mon Sam, I want to hear the badness in you again!

“Belle of the West” is raw and subtle but so iconic for the album as well. It has a lot of pressure to be right as it’s the title track o the album, but everything about it is so perfect. Nothing really more to say then that. I must say though, obviously as I said, I’m personally missing the badass of Sam’s music, I really do like it stripped back blues as well, just proves she can play both sides.

Next up is a cover of the old blues song “Poor Black Mattie” originally done by R. L Burnside. The song has come back to life with Lightnin Malcolm on vocals while Samantha does a some sort of call of response with Malcolm which is really effective, but I must say Lightnin Malcolm just completely steals this song with his distinctive voice. I’ve never heard of this track before until now, but after listening to the original, they really do make it their own.

Purest of blues, “No Angels” is driven through by the double bass which is rhythmically given the same kind of feel as the famous blues track “Baby Please Don’t Go” but slowed down. It’s effective, but not really that original. The thing with blues, it’s all been done before, but every time we hear a new blues track, we expect it to be something that’ll blow our minds. No Angels is a big song on the album, but it still doesn’t have the same impact as the beginning of the album did. It’s the ninth track on the album and it’s feeling like we’re losing the momentum and willpower a bit. Good song, but definitely missing something.

Lillie Mae Rische (who is mainly known for being a country artist who has worked with Jack White) takes lead on this next song “Nearing Home”. Samantha takes to the harmonies and their two voice blend together so nicely. This could be the one song that steals the whole album. The song is so soft and delicate and completely captures you all the way through. Biggest ballad of the album.

“Gone for Good” has been a secret gem of Samantha’s for a few years as it’s been hidden in her discography as she’s played it in her live sets for numerous of years and it’s nice to finally hear it studio recorded. I must say I do prefer this live, it has so much more energy and it completely rocks when she just goes into a screaming face melting guitar solo.

Overall, it’s a good album and it’s not bad at all. I just feel like something could be missing from it. Samantha is so talented though and it’s great to hear some new musicians in her band.

Favourite Tracks: American Dream, Blood in the Water, Daughters, Belle of the West, Poor Black Mattie, Nearing Home, Gone for Good

Score – 6/10

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