Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
Samantha Fish had a seismic effect when she hit the music scene some twelve years ago, the Kansas born singer guitarist instantly grabbing the attention of blues aficionados old and new with her distinctive drawl, quicksilver playing and striking looks.
Here was someone destined for great things, her fretwork, vocal chops and song writing skills pointing towards a long and successful career. So far, so stellar and this new album, her seventh ‘solo’, looks likely to prove one that will have the same impact as that debut, stretching as it does, beyond everything she’s done so far.
Having built her career on her unique mix of soul, jazz, country and blues, ‘Faster’ sees her going into much deeper waters and pushing new boundaries as she adds shades of dance influenced pop music into the whole.
Whilst purists may blanche at even the thought of this, that would be to totally underestimate Fish’s capacity to adapt and her skill as an artist, let alone her own desire to grow as a musician. Whether this is the next evolutionary stage of her career or just a sideways step, it can’t be denied that this new release offers a lot in the way of entertainment and instantly likeable tunes.
Given the already solid support that Fish has worked hard to achieve, there’s going to be plenty happy to see new product from the lady and it still bears so many of the hallmarks that brought her to where she is today. Still front and centre is that wonderful Kansas burr, a perfect blend of sensual and sassy, along with some dazzling guitar playing that switches between lively rock ‘n’ roll and slow blues.
With this slightly more commercial bent, ‘Faster’ sees her adding new elements that enhance, not detract from the whole and should see a wider audience come into the fold, just as has happened with Imelda May’s journey from rockabilly to a more soulful or rocky direction, covering bases as she wishes.
Kicking off with the title track, the album starts as it means to begin, the song starting with a thumping intro before Fish’s warm Southern Belle vocals come in. Whilst the more ‘pop’ side comes in, it’s much more of a sophisticated melodic drive than a full-on bubblegum tilt, the groove and lightness of touch more likely to bring smiles than head-scratching.
All Ice No Whisky’ is equally bright and full of attitude whilst ‘Twisted Ambition’ embraces more of the old blues style but with a modern sheen, the guitar scorching.
The aptly titled ‘Hypnotic’ is just that, ‘Forever Together’ juxtaposes it’s upbeat sound with darker lyrics and the slinky ‘Crowd Control’ sees slow blues with a swagger and swing. By this time, despite this venture into new territory, you can’t but help but be impressed with both the quality of the playing, writing and production, all of which have a consistently high reach not achieved by others.
Fish stamps her authority all over the album, making it very much her own and a great companion piece to her other work. In time it will be fascinating to see what comes next, all that can be assured is that it will be as the artist intended. Certainly, she could continue to make solid and hugely impressive, blues-based albums to great acclaim but this journey is much more interesting and truer.
There’s a great mix of keys and guitar in the loping and atmospheric ‘Imaginary War’ and ‘Loud’ manages to deftly balance passages that are alternatively delicate and full of bluster, adding a rap section near the conclusion. ‘Better Be Lonely’ dazzles with its vocals and guitar, the relentless rocker ‘So-Called Lover’ spits fires and brimstone and ‘Like A Classic’ is an upbeat and slinky blues power knockout.
The final killer blow is dealt by ‘All The Words’, the gorgeously stripped back and soulful ballad closing ‘Faster’ with a highlight amongst an achingly high-quality set of songs. Samantha Fish has produced something here both uplifting and challenging as it scales new heights in uncharted waters.
Quite frankly, we wouldn’t expect anything less or have it any other way. Still the best around, Fish is on unbeatable form and this new album could well be her biggest and the breakthrough into the mainstream that she deserves. A vibrant new chapter in her fascinating story.
Fish says, “It’s about flipping the power structure, the power dynamic, in your life. The world or a personal figure might be putting you down; it’s about taking control and owning your life and owning the situation.” Listen to “Twisted Ambition”: https://found.ee/SFTwistedAmbition
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