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Samantha Fish

Grammy Nominated guitarist singer Samantha Fish lights up every stage she’s on. In 2023 she concentrated in her side project Deathwish a project she founded along with country outlaw Jesse Dayton. In 2024 Samantha is preparing for her own world tour with her stellar band. You can expect to hear all of your favorite Samantha songs along with some musical surprises during the night. Samantha effortlessly blends blues, rock, and soul, creating a unique sound that has captured the attention of legendary Artist. Last September she was contacted by Eric Clapton and invited to join him at his 2023 Crossroads Festival.

Whether Samantha is powerfully delivering a soulful blues rocker or baring her soul with an acoustic ballad, Samantha Fish’s live performances are a testament to her status as a true musical powerhouse.

 

The Zac Schulze Gang

The Zac Schulze Gang are working class Blues from the UK. The high powered, high energy, blues band has been compared to Rory Gallagher as well as the Clash. Their new youthful spin on roots music has caught the ears of industry pros across the US which led to the band performing at the 2023 Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival in Los Angeles. The Zac Schulze Gang joins the Samantha Fish “Bullet Proof Tour” in support of the band’s new Flat Iron Records release “LIVE & LOUD.”

Samantha Fish and Jesse Dayton

The first-ever collaborative album from Samantha Fish and Jesse Dayton, Death Wish Blues is a body of work born from a shared passion for pushing the limits of blues music. As one of the most dynamic forces in the blues world today, Fish has made her name as a multi-award-winning festival headliner who captivates crowds with her explosive yet elegant guitar work, delivering an unbridled form of blues-rock that defies all genre boundaries. Dayton, meanwhile, boasts an extraordinary background that includes recording with the likes of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, touring as a guitarist for seminal punk band X, working with Rob Zombie on the soundtracks for his iconic horror films, and releasing a series of acclaimed solo albums. Produced by the legendary Jon Spencer of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Death Wish Blues ultimately melds their eclectic sensibilities into a batch of songs both emotionally potent and wildly combustible.

As Fish reveals, the making of Death Wish Blues marked the culmination of a musical connection forged in her hometown of Kansas City over a decade ago. “It was always a big deal when Jesse came through town to a play a show—we first met when I was 20, and I kept up with him through the years,” Fish says of the Beaumont, Texas-bred musician. “I’d been wanting to do a collaborative project for a while and went to see Jesse perform in New Orleans, and right away I knew he was the guy. We got together and had this vision of making something of an alt-blues record, but it turned out to be so much more exciting and layered than I ever imagined.”

The follow-up to Fish and Dayton’s 2022 EP Stardust Sessions—a three-song effort featuring covers of classic tracks like Townes Van Zandt’s “I’ll Be Here In The Morning”—Death Wish Blues took shape at Applehead Recording & Production in Woodstock, a studio situated on a 17-acre farm once home to The Band’s Rick Danko. Over the course of 10 frenetic days, the two musicians joined forces with bassist Kendall Wind, keyboardist Mickey Finn, and drummer Aaron Johnston, cutting most of the album live and unleashing a bold collision of blues, soul, punk, funk, and fantastically greasy rock-and-roll. With Fish and Dayton sharing vocal and guitar duties, the sonic power of each track is exponentially magnified by Spencer’s production work, endlessly tapping into the rule-breaking ingenuity that’s made him a cult hero. “Jon’s indie-rock royalty and he’s always been ahead of the game as far as moving the blues forward,” says Dayton. “For this album we wanted to keep everything blues-based, with a lot of inspiration from people like Albert King and Magic Sam on the lead-guitar parts, but we also wanted to have fun with that and take it somewhere new and different and way outside our wheelhouse.”

One of the first songs that Fish and Dayton wrote together, the album-opening “Death Wish” immediately established the free-flowing nature of their collaboration. “Samantha sent me that melody and I went into my writing room and started coming up with some lyrics inspired by all these true-crime documentaries I’d been watching,” Dayton recalls. “It turned into a song about men taking advantage of women, and I knew that Samantha could really chew on those lyrics and sing them with a lot of attitude.” Anchored by a hot-tempered vocal performance from Fish, the result is a prime introduction to Death Wish Blues’ incendiary sound, at turns gritty, exhilarating, and indelibly hypnotic. Later, on “Riders,” Fish and Dayton offer up a ferociously groove-heavy track built on their fiery vocal back-and-forth, reaching a majestic frenzy in the song’s final moments. “‘Riders’ is about being musicians and troubadours and having one-night stands with whatever city you happen to be in,” says Fish. “Every city is personified as a love interest or partner, and in the end you just move on to whatever adventure is coming up next.”

Although Death Wish Blues serves up plenty of swagger and bravado, much of the album embodies a powerfully raw sensitivity. “As we were writing some of the love songs you hear on the record, I really had to open up my heart to Samantha to get to the core of what we wanted to express,” says Dayton. “It was good for me to allow myself to be that vulnerable, and I don’t know if it’s something I would’ve been able to do when I was younger.” On “Trauma,” Fish and Dayton spin a strangely thrilling portrait of heartbreak, taking on a furious momentum as Dayton lays his pain and frustration exquisitely bare. Building a heady tension between its slow-burning verses and hard-hitting chorus, “Settle for Less” unfolds as an achingly moving meditation on self-worth. “The sentiment of that song is that if you settle for anything short of what you deserve, that’s exactly what you’re going to get,” says Fish, who co-wrote the track with her frequent collaborator Jim McCormick (Tim McGraw, Trisha Yearwood). And on “No Apology,” Death Wish Blues slips into a moment of heavy-hearted outpouring, with Fish’s graceful yet gut-punching vocals riding the line between tender longing and unapologetic self-possession. “‘No Apology’ is about fighting with the one you love and wanting to push through and make everything okay again,” says Fish. “It’s a love song but sort of twisted, because that’s the only kind of love song I write.”

Another irresistibly soulful track, “You Know My Heart” closes out Death Wish Blues with a spellbinding duet illuminating the pure magic of their musical chemistry. “That’s the first song that Jesse and I finished together,” Fish points out. “He sent it to me to one morning and told me he’d woken up the night before with that melody in his head, and we started singing it together and fleshing out the verses. It turned into a song about being far from your loved one and maybe things aren’t going the way you want, but you know they’ll love you through your worst and see your better intentions through it all. I thought that was a really beautiful way to end the record.”  

Throughout Death Wish Blues, Fish and Dayton let their more lighthearted side shine on tracks like “Supadupabad,” a gloriously carefree piece of blues-funk complete with references to sipping Courvoisier from crystal cups. “That song was way out of my comfort zone, but it felt good to get sort of silly and just have fun with it,” says Fish. “It’s like a two-minute party, and I don’t think I could’ve ever come up with something like that on my own.” Thanks in part to Spencer’s direction, the recording sessions for Death Wish Blues also included such unexpected moments as building the off-kilter beat of “Dangerous People” by banging on beer cans gathered from the backyard. “What I loved about working with Jon is that we brought in a bunch of songs that we’d demoed on acoustic guitar, and he’d go in and find a way to add all these unique parts that I never would’ve envisioned,” says Fish. “Sometimes it was jarring at first, but everything ended up fitting so perfectly.” Looking back on the album-making process, Fish also notes that Spencer helped to uncover certain facets of her voice that she’d never explored before. “Jon records vocals with character; it’s about attitude rather than perfection,” she says. “I learned a lot about taking on the character of the song, and about singing with different inflections to really get the emotion across.”

For both Fish and Dayton, the making of Death Wish Blues helped fulfill their longtime mission of opening up the blues genre to entirely new audiences. “I’ve played all kinds of music in my life, punk and country and Americana and so much else, and for me this was another wonderful rabbit hole to fall down,” says Dayton. “I love that it’s coming at a moment when we’re starting to see the resurgence of rock guitar for the first time in a long time, and I think it’s going to turn a lot of people on to a kind of music they’ve never experienced before.” Fish adds: “The main reason why I make music has always been the connection it creates with others. It’s a way to communicate with the world around me, to tell stories that people can then take and apply to their own lives and maybe feel more understood. We had such a fun time making this album, and I hope that it leaves everyone with the same feeling of joy that we all felt in the studio.”

Eric Johanson

Eric Johanson is a multiple Top 10 Billboard-charting guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter whose original music stretches beyond traditional genre lines of blues, rock, and progressive Americana, all while feeding off the groove and history of his home in New Orleans. His four most recent solo releases – Live at DBA: New Orleans Bootleg, Covered Tracks: Vol. 1, Covered Tracks: Vol. 2, and Below Sea Level – all reached top-ten positions on the Billboard blues charts, and Guitar Player Magazine recently listed him as one of 25 Top New Blues Guitarists (Jan 2023 issue).

As a touring performer, Johanson’s solo festival appearances include the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, Las Vegas Big Blues Bender, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Crescent City Blues Fest, and others. He and his band have appeared in more than 100 cities across the United States. As a guitarist, Johanson has been a special guest to artists such as Cyril Neville, Anders Osborne, the Neville Brothers, Samantha Fish, Tab Benoit, JJ Grey, Eric Lindell, and a host of other torch bearers of modern roots music.

A self-taught child prodigy, Johanson grew up in Louisiana, where he was gifted his first guitar at age five. By his pre-teen years, his love of the blues records played in his childhood home, by artists like Freddie King, Robert Johnson, and Buddy Guy, merged with his love for hard rock records by the likes of Metallica, White Zombie, Soundgarden, and Nine Inch Nails. Throughout his teenage years, he performed frequently with older blues musicians, generating for himself considerable acclaim as a budding regional star. What would prove to become a lifelong exploration of his varied musical interests began in his college years in New Orleans, where he delved into progressive rock and beat-making while simultaneously developing his blues voice. After graduating from the University of New Orleans, Johanson spent several years in New Zealand before being called back to his home, and the improvisational, extemporaneous nature of roots music in the Crescent City. 

Johanson has since established himself as an in-demand guitarist and guest performer for some of the most prolific names in New Orleans’ diverse roots music scene. In 2017, blues rock icon Tab Benoit took notice and signed Johanson to his Whiskey Bayou Records label. That same year, Johanson released his Benoit-produced debut solo album, Burn It Down, which led to two years of national touring with Benoit. 

In 2019, following an appearance at an all-star jam during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Eric caught the ear of North Mississippi Allstars’ Luther Dickinson, who expressed interest in producing Johanson’s next record. In 2020, Johanson signed with Nola Blue Records and released Below Sea Level, which was recorded at the Dickinson’s Zebra Ranch, and includes contributions from Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars) on drums, Terrence Grayson (Victor Wainwright) on bass, and Ray Jacildo (JD McPherson) on B3 organ. The album features 12 original songs penned by Johanson, and was mixed by Dan Auerbach’s head engineer at Easy Eye Sound in Nashville, M. Allen Parker. 

Johanson’s fan base grew extensively during the pandemic and ensuing shutdown of live music, due to his successful acoustic livestreams, during which he mixed original songs with covers of artists representing a variety of genres. Popular demand led to the release of Covered Tracks, volumes one and two, in the spring of 2021. In early 2022, Johanson released  Live at DBA: New Orleans Bootleg, his first live album and a double-disc raw and unfiltered snapshot of his live band in action.

Late 2022 & early 2023, Johanson has been burning up the road supporting Samantha Fish on cross-country tours, and summer 2023 will see the release of Eric’s highly anticipated third studio record.

An evening of Explosive Alternative Blues featuring Blues Music Award winning Samantha Fish & legendary singer, guitarist and Austin Music Hall of Famer Jesse Dayton. Samantha and Jesse  will share the stage ripping through their vast catalogs as well as music by The Clash,  Townes Van Zandt, Magic Sam, and new originals songs inspired by this event. Don’t miss this chance to get a sneak peek into their new record scheduled for release in late spring.

 

“That was my mission on this album: To really set these songs up so that they have a life of their own,” says Samantha Fish about Kill or Be Kind, her sixth solo album and her debut on Rounder Records. “Strong messages from the heart – that’s what I really set out for.” Indeed, what comes across immediately on hearing the album is the extraordinary level of songcraft on its eleven tracks, the way these songs are so smartly put together to deliver a potent emotional impact.

Anyone who has ever heard Fish’s previous albums knows that she has earned a place in the top rank of contemporary blues guitarists and that her voice can wring the soul out of a ballad and belt out a rocker with roof-shaking force. And, rest reassured, those virtues are fully in evidence on Kill or Be Kind. But each of the songs on the album does far more than simply provide a setting for Fish’s pyrotechnics. They tell captivating stories, set up by verses that deftly set the scene, choruses that lift with real feeling, and hooks that later rise up in your thoughts, even when you’re not aware that you’re thinking of music at all. It’s the kind of songwriting that emerges when raw talent is leavened by experience and aspiration, and when a committed artist genuinely has something to say. Those qualities make Kill or Be Kind a genuine artistic breakthrough for Fish.

“I think I’ve grown as a performer and as a player,” she explains. “I’ve become more respectful of the melody. You can go up and down the fret board and up and down your vocal register, but that’s not going to be as powerful as conveying a simple melody that people can really connect to and sing themselves.” To help bring those elements to her music, Fish sought out high-quality songwriting collaborators – the likes of Jim McCormick (who has worked with Fish before and also written for Luke Bryan and Keith Urban); Kate Pearlman (who has worked with Kelly Clarkson); Patrick Sweeney; Parker Millsap; and Eric McFadden. The result is an album on which each song is distinct, but the complete work hangs together as a coherent, entirely satisfying statement. “When you get to this point in your life as an artist,” Fish says, “it’s good to work with others, because it makes you stretch. I think you hear a lot of that nuance on the record, songs that have a pop sensibility to them, hooks that really pull you in.”

You get a good sense of the range the album covers from the first two songs released. Fish propels “Watch It Die” with an insistent guitar riff, but near the song’s end two female background singers lend the song a haunting soulful feel. Meanwhile, “Love Letters” moves on an insinuating, stop-time riff in its verses until it bursts in passion on its chorus. Both songs use horn sections for finesse and texture. “Love Letters” also introduces one of the album’s central themes: the allure of losing yourself in love – and the dangers of it.  “Keep waking up in the bed I made,” Fish sings. “Forget the pain when you wanna play/I’m back to broken when you go away.”

“That’s just a love-sick song,” Fish says, laughing. “like I think I was when I wrote it.” The title track, a seductive ballad, offers a lover a stark choice: “Make up your mind/I can kill or be kind.” To explain that dichotomy, Fish says, “It’s funny how love can be so fickle, how quickly you go from object of affection to one of disdain. I’ve always found that dynamic interesting. That track is full of that duality,” she adds, laughing. “I also loved the Memphis sound of the horns on there. They sound modern, but it’s got this vintage feeling as well.” The songs “Dirty,” “Love Your Lies” and “Fair-Weather” explore similar themes – how deceit, self-deception and shifting expectations can alter the course of life and love. The affecting ballad “Dream Girl” stands the endearment of its title on its head and explores the dilemma of a love not coming to fruition. “I wish you’d take the rest of me,” Fish sings. “These tears, they kill your fantasy.” On “She Don’t Live Around Here Anymore,” a soul ballad once again bolstered by tasteful horn parts, the singer confronts the feeling of being used and finds empowerment in walking away.  

The album is framed by songs — “Bulletproof” and “You Got It Bad (Better Than You Ever Had).” “Bulletproof digs into the theme of vulnerability, about it being mistaken for weakness, and how we often times feel the need to wear a mask to survive in the world today, while “You Got It Bad (Better Than You Ever Had)” is about working towards your dreams and the knifes edge we often walk to reach our goals.

“Trying Not to Fall in Love With You” finds the singer not wanting to rush a relationship – and therefore undermine it. “I fall fast,” Fish admits, “I have to remember to take care and not scare the person away.”

To make Kill or Be Kind, Fish chose to work at the legendary Royal Studios in Memphis, with Scott Billington as producer. “I worked at Royal before, when I made my Wild Heart album,” she says. “The soul in the walls, the vibe – you can feel it in that place. I’m such a fan of Al Green, Ann Peebles and all the classic recordings that happened there. Memphis just kept calling to me. I’ve always felt so inspired there.” As for Billington, a three-time Grammy winner, Fish appreciated both his open-mindedness and his willingness to ease her out of her comfort zone. “Scott allowed me to see the building-out process of the album all the way through, from the top to the bottom,” she says. “Bringing in background singers and synthesizers, which I’d never done on an album before, that added an extra edge. Honestly, it was a challenge. It pushed me to think about the songs differently. That trust from my producer gave me the freedom to really take some risks.”

Having completed an album that she believes in so strongly – “This is me coming through, my personality,” she says – Fish is eager to bring it to the world. “I got the moon in the back of my mind, and I want to shoot for it!” she declares. “I want to reach over genre lines and get out to as many people as possible. This album is so broad – and it’s all me. So I’m just hoping it catches people and appeals to them.”

She concludes, “Overall my big goal, career-wise, is to contribute something different and new to music. I want to give something that stands apart and yet is timeless.” With Kill or Be Kind, Samantha Fish is well on her way along that path. – Anthony DeCurtis

Click here for our Covid Protocols

“That was my mission on this album: To really set these songs up so that they have a life of their own,” says Samantha Fish about Kill or Be Kind, her sixth solo album and her debut on Rounder Records. “Strong messages from the heart – that’s what I really set out for.” Indeed, what comes across immediately on hearing the album is the extraordinary level of songcraft on its eleven tracks, the way these songs are so smartly put together to deliver a potent emotional impact.

Anyone who has ever heard Fish’s previous albums knows that she has earned a place in the top rank of contemporary blues guitarists and that her voice can wring the soul out of a ballad and belt out a rocker with roof-shaking force. And, rest reassured, those virtues are fully in evidence on Kill or Be Kind. But each of the songs on the album does far more than simply provide a setting for Fish’s pyrotechnics. They tell captivating stories, set up by verses that deftly set the scene, choruses that lift with real feeling, and hooks that later rise up in your thoughts, even when you’re not aware that you’re thinking of music at all. It’s the kind of songwriting that emerges when raw talent is leavened by experience and aspiration, and when a committed artist genuinely has something to say. Those qualities make Kill or Be Kind a genuine artistic breakthrough for Fish.

“I think I’ve grown as a performer and as a player,” she explains. “I’ve become more respectful of the melody. You can go up and down the fret board and up and down your vocal register, but that’s not going to be as powerful as conveying a simple melody that people can really connect to and sing themselves.” To help bring those elements to her music, Fish sought out high-quality songwriting collaborators – the likes of Jim McCormick (who has worked with Fish before and also written for Luke Bryan and Keith Urban); Kate Pearlman (who has worked with Kelly Clarkson); Patrick Sweeney; Parker Millsap; and Eric McFadden. The result is an album on which each song is distinct, but the complete work hangs together as a coherent, entirely satisfying statement. “When you get to this point in your life as an artist,” Fish says, “it’s good to work with others, because it makes you stretch. I think you hear a lot of that nuance on the record, songs that have a pop sensibility to them, hooks that really pull you in.”

You get a good sense of the range the album covers from the first two songs released. Fish propels “Watch It Die” with an insistent guitar riff, but near the song’s end two female background singers lend the song a haunting soulful feel. Meanwhile, “Love Letters” moves on an insinuating, stop-time riff in its verses until it bursts in passion on its chorus. Both songs use horn sections for finesse and texture. “Love Letters” also introduces one of the album’s central themes: the allure of losing yourself in love – and the dangers of it.  “Keep waking up in the bed I made,” Fish sings. “Forget the pain when you wanna play/I’m back to broken when you go away.”

“That’s just a love-sick song,” Fish says, laughing. “like I think I was when I wrote it.” The title track, a seductive ballad, offers a lover a stark choice: “Make up your mind/I can kill or be kind.” To explain that dichotomy, Fish says, “It’s funny how love can be so fickle, how quickly you go from object of affection to one of disdain. I’ve always found that dynamic interesting. That track is full of that duality,” she adds, laughing. “I also loved the Memphis sound of the horns on there. They sound modern, but it’s got this vintage feeling as well.” The songs “Dirty,” “Love Your Lies” and “Fair-Weather” explore similar themes – how deceit, self-deception and shifting expectations can alter the course of life and love. The affecting ballad “Dream Girl” stands the endearment of its title on its head and explores the dilemma of a love not coming to fruition. “I wish you’d take the rest of me,” Fish sings. “These tears, they kill your fantasy.” On “She Don’t Live Around Here Anymore,” a soul ballad once again bolstered by tasteful horn parts, the singer confronts the feeling of being used and finds empowerment in walking away.  

The album is framed by songs — “Bulletproof” and “You Got It Bad (Better Than You Ever Had).” “Bulletproof digs into the theme of vulnerability, about it being mistaken for weakness, and how we often times feel the need to wear a mask to survive in the world today, while “You Got It Bad (Better Than You Ever Had)” is about working towards your dreams and the knifes edge we often walk to reach our goals.

“Trying Not to Fall in Love With You” finds the singer not wanting to rush a relationship – and therefore undermine it. “I fall fast,” Fish admits, “I have to remember to take care and not scare the person away.”

To make Kill or Be Kind, Fish chose to work at the legendary Royal Studios in Memphis, with Scott Billington as producer. “I worked at Royal before, when I made my Wild Heart album,” she says. “The soul in the walls, the vibe – you can feel it in that place. I’m such a fan of Al Green, Ann Peebles and all the classic recordings that happened there. Memphis just kept calling to me. I’ve always felt so inspired there.” As for Billington, a three-time Grammy winner, Fish appreciated both his open-mindedness and his willingness to ease her out of her comfort zone. “Scott allowed me to see the building-out process of the album all the way through, from the top to the bottom,” she says. “Bringing in background singers and synthesizers, which I’d never done on an album before, that added an extra edge. Honestly, it was a challenge. It pushed me to think about the songs differently. That trust from my producer gave me the freedom to really take some risks.”

Having completed an album that she believes in so strongly – “This is me coming through, my personality,” she says – Fish is eager to bring it to the world. “I got the moon in the back of my mind, and I want to shoot for it!” she declares. “I want to reach over genre lines and get out to as many people as possible. This album is so broad – and it’s all me. So I’m just hoping it catches people and appeals to them.”

She concludes, “Overall my big goal, career-wise, is to contribute something different and new to music. I want to give something that stands apart and yet is timeless.” With Kill or Be Kind, Samantha Fish is well on her way along that path. – Anthony DeCurtis

Click here for our Covid Protocols

“That was my mission on this album: To really set these songs up so that they have a life of their own,” says Samantha Fish about Kill or Be Kind, her sixth solo album and her debut on Rounder Records. “Strong messages from the heart – that’s what I really set out for.” Indeed, what comes across immediately on hearing the album is the extraordinary level of songcraft on its eleven tracks, the way these songs are so smartly put together to deliver a potent emotional impact.

Anyone who has ever heard Fish’s previous albums knows that she has earned a place in the top rank of contemporary blues guitarists and that her voice can wring the soul out of a ballad and belt out a rocker with roof-shaking force. And, rest reassured, those virtues are fully in evidence on Kill or Be Kind. But each of the songs on the album does far more than simply provide a setting for Fish’s pyrotechnics. They tell captivating stories, set up by verses that deftly set the scene, choruses that lift with real feeling, and hooks that later rise up in your thoughts, even when you’re not aware that you’re thinking of music at all. It’s the kind of songwriting that emerges when raw talent is leavened by experience and aspiration, and when a committed artist genuinely has something to say. Those qualities make Kill or Be Kind a genuine artistic breakthrough for Fish.

“I think I’ve grown as a performer and as a player,” she explains. “I’ve become more respectful of the melody. You can go up and down the fret board and up and down your vocal register, but that’s not going to be as powerful as conveying a simple melody that people can really connect to and sing themselves.” To help bring those elements to her music, Fish sought out high-quality songwriting collaborators – the likes of Jim McCormick (who has worked with Fish before and also written for Luke Bryan and Keith Urban); Kate Pearlman (who has worked with Kelly Clarkson); Patrick Sweeney; Parker Millsap; and Eric McFadden. The result is an album on which each song is distinct, but the complete work hangs together as a coherent, entirely satisfying statement. “When you get to this point in your life as an artist,” Fish says, “it’s good to work with others, because it makes you stretch. I think you hear a lot of that nuance on the record, songs that have a pop sensibility to them, hooks that really pull you in.”

You get a good sense of the range the album covers from the first two songs released. Fish propels “Watch It Die” with an insistent guitar riff, but near the song’s end two female background singers lend the song a haunting soulful feel. Meanwhile, “Love Letters” moves on an insinuating, stop-time riff in its verses until it bursts in passion on its chorus. Both songs use horn sections for finesse and texture. “Love Letters” also introduces one of the album’s central themes: the allure of losing yourself in love – and the dangers of it.  “Keep waking up in the bed I made,” Fish sings. “Forget the pain when you wanna play/I’m back to broken when you go away.”

“That’s just a love-sick song,” Fish says, laughing. “like I think I was when I wrote it.” The title track, a seductive ballad, offers a lover a stark choice: “Make up your mind/I can kill or be kind.” To explain that dichotomy, Fish says, “It’s funny how love can be so fickle, how quickly you go from object of affection to one of disdain. I’ve always found that dynamic interesting. That track is full of that duality,” she adds, laughing. “I also loved the Memphis sound of the horns on there. They sound modern, but it’s got this vintage feeling as well.” The songs “Dirty,” “Love Your Lies” and “Fair-Weather” explore similar themes – how deceit, self-deception and shifting expectations can alter the course of life and love. The affecting ballad “Dream Girl” stands the endearment of its title on its head and explores the dilemma of a love not coming to fruition. “I wish you’d take the rest of me,” Fish sings. “These tears, they kill your fantasy.” On “She Don’t Live Around Here Anymore,” a soul ballad once again bolstered by tasteful horn parts, the singer confronts the feeling of being used and finds empowerment in walking away.  

The album is framed by songs — “Bulletproof” and “You Got It Bad (Better Than You Ever Had).” “Bulletproof digs into the theme of vulnerability, about it being mistaken for weakness, and how we often times feel the need to wear a mask to survive in the world today, while “You Got It Bad (Better Than You Ever Had)” is about working towards your dreams and the knifes edge we often walk to reach our goals.

“Trying Not to Fall in Love With You” finds the singer not wanting to rush a relationship – and therefore undermine it. “I fall fast,” Fish admits, “I have to remember to take care and not scare the person away.”

To make Kill or Be Kind, Fish chose to work at the legendary Royal Studios in Memphis, with Scott Billington as producer. “I worked at Royal before, when I made my Wild Heart album,” she says. “The soul in the walls, the vibe – you can feel it in that place. I’m such a fan of Al Green, Ann Peebles and all the classic recordings that happened there. Memphis just kept calling to me. I’ve always felt so inspired there.” As for Billington, a three-time Grammy winner, Fish appreciated both his open-mindedness and his willingness to ease her out of her comfort zone. “Scott allowed me to see the building-out process of the album all the way through, from the top to the bottom,” she says. “Bringing in background singers and synthesizers, which I’d never done on an album before, that added an extra edge. Honestly, it was a challenge. It pushed me to think about the songs differently. That trust from my producer gave me the freedom to really take some risks.”

Having completed an album that she believes in so strongly – “This is me coming through, my personality,” she says – Fish is eager to bring it to the world. “I got the moon in the back of my mind, and I want to shoot for it!” she declares. “I want to reach over genre lines and get out to as many people as possible. This album is so broad – and it’s all me. So I’m just hoping it catches people and appeals to them.”

She concludes, “Overall my big goal, career-wise, is to contribute something different and new to music. I want to give something that stands apart and yet is timeless.” With Kill or Be Kind, Samantha Fish is well on her way along that path. – Anthony DeCurtis

Click here for COVID-19 Safety Protocols

“That was my mission on this album: To really set these songs up so that they have a life of their own,” says Samantha Fish about Kill or Be Kind, her sixth solo album and her debut on Rounder Records. “Strong messages from the heart – that’s what I really set out for.” Indeed, what comes across immediately on hearing the album is the extraordinary level of songcraft on its eleven tracks, the way these songs are so smartly put together to deliver a potent emotional impact.

Anyone who has ever heard Fish’s previous albums knows that she has earned a place in the top rank of contemporary blues guitarists and that her voice can wring the soul out of a ballad and belt out a rocker with roof-shaking force. And, rest reassured, those virtues are fully in evidence on Kill or Be Kind. But each of the songs on the album does far more than simply provide a setting for Fish’s pyrotechnics. They tell captivating stories, set up by verses that deftly set the scene, choruses that lift with real feeling, and hooks that later rise up in your thoughts, even when you’re not aware that you’re thinking of music at all. It’s the kind of songwriting that emerges when raw talent is leavened by experience and aspiration, and when a committed artist genuinely has something to say. Those qualities make Kill or Be Kind a genuine artistic breakthrough for Fish.

“I think I’ve grown as a performer and as a player,” she explains. “I’ve become more respectful of the melody. You can go up and down the fret board and up and down your vocal register, but that’s not going to be as powerful as conveying a simple melody that people can really connect to and sing themselves.” To help bring those elements to her music, Fish sought out high-quality songwriting collaborators – the likes of Jim McCormick (who has worked with Fish before and also written for Luke Bryan and Keith Urban); Kate Pearlman (who has worked with Kelly Clarkson); Patrick Sweeney; Parker Millsap; and Eric McFadden. The result is an album on which each song is distinct, but the complete work hangs together as a coherent, entirely satisfying statement. “When you get to this point in your life as an artist,” Fish says, “it’s good to work with others, because it makes you stretch. I think you hear a lot of that nuance on the record, songs that have a pop sensibility to them, hooks that really pull you in.”

You get a good sense of the range the album covers from the first two songs released. Fish propels “Watch It Die” with an insistent guitar riff, but near the song’s end two female background singers lend the song a haunting soulful feel. Meanwhile, “Love Letters” moves on an insinuating, stop-time riff in its verses until it bursts in passion on its chorus. Both songs use horn sections for finesse and texture. “Love Letters” also introduces one of the album’s central themes: the allure of losing yourself in love – and the dangers of it.  “Keep waking up in the bed I made,” Fish sings. “Forget the pain when you wanna play/I’m back to broken when you go away.”

“That’s just a love-sick song,” Fish says, laughing. “like I think I was when I wrote it.” The title track, a seductive ballad, offers a lover a stark choice: “Make up your mind/I can kill or be kind.” To explain that dichotomy, Fish says, “It’s funny how love can be so fickle, how quickly you go from object of affection to one of disdain. I’ve always found that dynamic interesting. That track is full of that duality,” she adds, laughing. “I also loved the Memphis sound of the horns on there. They sound modern, but it’s got this vintage feeling as well.” The songs “Dirty,” “Love Your Lies” and “Fair-Weather” explore similar themes – how deceit, self-deception and shifting expectations can alter the course of life and love. The affecting ballad “Dream Girl” stands the endearment of its title on its head and explores the dilemma of a love not coming to fruition. “I wish you’d take the rest of me,” Fish sings. “These tears, they kill your fantasy.” On “She Don’t Live Around Here Anymore,” a soul ballad once again bolstered by tasteful horn parts, the singer confronts the feeling of being used and finds empowerment in walking away.

The album is framed by songs — “Bulletproof” and “You Got It Bad (Better Than You Ever Had).” “Bulletproof digs into the theme of vulnerability, about it being mistaken for weakness, and how we often times feel the need to wear a mask to survive in the world today, while “You Got It Bad (Better Than You Ever Had)” is about working towards your dreams and the knifes edge we often walk to reach our goals.

“Trying Not to Fall in Love With You” finds the singer not wanting to rush a relationship – and therefore undermine it. “I fall fast,” Fish admits, “I have to remember to take care and not scare the person away.”

To make Kill or Be Kind, Fish chose to work at the legendary Royal Studios in Memphis, with Scott Billington as producer. “I worked at Royal before, when I made my Wild Heart album,” she says. “The soul in the walls, the vibe – you can feel it in that place. I’m such a fan of Al Green, Ann Peebles and all the classic recordings that happened there. Memphis just kept calling to me. I’ve always felt so inspired there.” As for Billington, a three-time Grammy winner, Fish appreciated both his open-mindedness and his willingness to ease her out of her comfort zone. “Scott allowed me to see the building-out process of the album all the way through, from the top to the bottom,” she says. “Bringing in background singers and synthesizers, which I’d never done on an album before, that added an extra edge. Honestly, it was a challenge. It pushed me to think about the songs differently. That trust from my producer gave me the freedom to really take some risks.”

Having completed an album that she believes in so strongly – “This is me coming through, my personality,” she says – Fish is eager to bring it to the world. “I got the moon in the back of my mind, and I want to shoot for it!” she declares. “I want to reach over genre lines and get out to as many people as possible. This album is so broad – and it’s all me. So I’m just hoping it catches people and appeals to them.”

She concludes, “Overall my big goal, career-wise, is to contribute something different and new to music. I want to give something that stands apart and yet is timeless.” With Kill or Be Kind, Samantha Fish is well on her way along that path. – Anthony DeCurtis

“You should always get outside of the box,” Samantha Fish says while discussing her boundary-breaking new album Belle of the West. “Challenging yourself is how you grow.”

 

After launching her recording career in 2009, Samantha Fish quickly established herself as a rising star in the contemporary blues world.  Since then, the charismatic young singer-guitarist-songwriter has earned a reputation as a rising guitar hero and powerful live performer, while releasing a series of acclaimed albums that have shown her restless creative spirit consistently taking her in new and exciting musical directions.

The New York Times called Fish “an impressive blues guitarist who sings with sweet power” and “one of the genre’s most promising young talents.”  Her hometown paper The Kansas City Star noted, “Samantha Fish has kicked down the door of the patriarchal blues club” and observed that the young artist “displays more imagination and creativity than some blues veterans exhibit over the course of their careers.”

Having already made it clear that she’s more interested in following her heart than she is in repeating past triumphs, Samantha Fish delivers some of her most compelling music to date with Belle of the West, her fifth studio album.  The deeply soulful, personally charged 11-song set showcases Fish’s sublime acoustic guitar skills as well as her rootsy, emotionally resonant songwriting.

Such memorable new originals as “American Dream,” “Blood in the Water,” “Need You More” and “Don’t Say You Love Me” demonstrate the artist’s knack for organic Americana songcraft, while a trio of cover tunes—R.L. Burnside’s “Poor Black Mattie,” Lillie Mae’s “Nearing Home” and the Jimbo Mathus-penned title track—attest to her substantial interpretive skills as well as her varied musical interests.

“To me, this is a natural progression,” Fish notes. “It’s a storytelling record by a girl who grew up in the Midwest.  It’s very personal.  I really focused on the songwriting and vocals, the melodies and emotion, and on bringing another dimension to what I do.  I wasn’t interested in shredding on guitar, although we ended up with a few heavier tracks.  I love Mississippi blues; there’s something very soulful and very real about that style of music, so this was a chance to immerse myself in that.”

Fish recorded Belle of the West in the relaxed, rural creative atmosphere of the legendary Zebra Ranch Studios in the North Hills of Mississippi with producer Luther Dickinson (of North Mississippi Allstars fame), with whom she worked previously on her 2015 album Wild Heart.  The studio team included some of the region’s most iconoclastic musicians, including Dickinson, solo artist and Jack White associate Lillie Mae (whose distinctive vocals are featured on “Nearing Home”), much-traveled juke- joint blues artist Lightnin’ Malcolm (whose featured on “Poor Black Mattie”), Squirrel Nut Zippers founder Jimbo Mathus, upright bassist and beloved solo artist Amy LaVere, Tikyra Jackson, Trina Raimey and Shardé Thomas, granddaughter of the legendary Southern bluesman Otha Turner.

“I wanted to do this acoustic-electric record, and tap into the style and swagger of Mississippi,” Fish states, adding, “Any time you dive into another place, another vibe and a new group of people, you’re challenging yourself to grow musically.  I felt very at home a Zebra Ranch, and I’ve known Luther and Malcolm for years, so it was a very comfortable situation.  When you’re making a record like this, it has to feel natural if you want people to respond to it.

Belle of the West follows on the heels of Fish’s March 2017 release Chills & Fever, which achieved top 10 status in the Billboard Blues charts. Here she expanded her stylistic arsenal to take on a set of lesser-known vintage R&B gems, with help from members of garage-soul stalwarts the Detroit Cobras. “Having these two very different records come out back to back this year has been really liberating,” says Samantha.

The creative drive that fuels Belle of the West and Chills & Fever has been a crucial element of Samantha Fish’s approach from the beginning.  Growing up in a musical family in Kansas City, Missouri, she became obsessed with music early life, taking up drums before switching to guitar at the age of 15. By the time she was 20, she had formed her own trio and self-released her first album.  She soon caught the ear of the renowned blues label Ruf Records, which in 2011 released Girls with Guitars, which teamed her with fellow axewomen Cassie Taylor and Dani Wilde.  The same year saw Ruf release Fish’s solo studio debut Runaway.  The album was named Best Artist Debut at the 2012 Blues Music Awards in Memphis.

Black Wind Howlin’ (2013) and Wild Heart (2015) followed, winning considerable critical acclaim and further establishing Fish as a prominent presence in the blues community.  Wild Heart reached the top slot on Billboard’s blues chart.  She also collaborated with blues-rock veterans Jimmy Hall and Reese Wynans on the 2013 project The Healers.  The same year, she jammed onstage with blues icon Buddy Guy, and guested on Devon Allman’s album Turquoise.

Fish continues to maintain the same hardworking, prolific approach that’s carried her this far.  “I think I’ve always had that,” she says.  “Music is my life, so what other choice do I have but to go out and make music?  We do tour quite a bit, and maybe it’s kind of crazy to put out two dramatically different albums in one year.  But I like to work hard.  This is who I am and this is what I do, and when I’m writing and recording and touring is when I feel the most like myself.  And now we have a moment where people are paying attention, so I have to make the most of it.  I feel like I have a lot to say right now, so why not say it?”

As far as Samantha Fish is concerned, her musical future is an open road.  “I’m never gonna be a traditional blues artist, because that’s not who I am,” she asserts.  “But it’s all the blues for me.  When Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf came out, what they were doing didn’t sound like anything that had been done in blues before.  You’ve gotta keep that kind of fire and spirit.  I’m never gonna do Muddy Waters better than Muddy Waters, so I have to be who I am and find my best voice.