I love it when an artist you enjoy and you feel you know their work suddenly throws you a subtle swerve and comes up with something that catches you right between the ears. That is exactly what Samantha Fish has done with her great new album 'Chills and Fever'. As someone with a well embedded roots music background, she grew up surrounded by blues and rock in Kansas City and first came to wider notice on one of those wonderfully rowdy Ruf Records' albums 'Girls with Guitars' Since then she has released a number of albums of mainly edgy rock-blues. Now she has corralled all of that back history and passion into one boisterous grab-you-by-the-throat collection in one place....and boy, she is absolutely at home there!
It appears that she took herself off to Detroit, found herself a Detroit producer - Bobby Harlow - and a fabulous hugely experienced dynamic band in the form of the Detroit Cobras. The result is a terrific sassy album overflowing with kick-arse music sustained by an absolutely rocking crew of musicians. I love the range of this piece of work – many familiar tracks in here, from the likes of Jackie DeShannon and Alan Toussaint and there are some really smart and original arrangements to old favourites. Here we have some great shouty blues-rock, some tracks that verge on joyous pop, some Memphis soul cuts and some cooled down numbers from a proper blues singer. All of this is supported by the perfectly pitched Detroit Cobras who, with their punk blues background, bring her the whole package from rocking brassy New Orleans to sweet Hammond and guitar mix. On top of this perfectly formed backdrop, Samantha brings us some soul, some up-tempo blue-grass, a taste of get-off-your-butt and dance, some hot guitar-slinging and a touch of torch singing diva.
Although the album opens with the wonderful hundred miles an hour 'He Did It' and seldom lets up, there are some beautiful slower numbers where you can take a breath and listen to someone who knows how to tweak your emotional buttons. In particular, the fine Van McCoy/Nina Simone track 'Either Way I Lose', breathes some great passion into those killer words – Amy Winehouse and the tearful 'Love is a Losing Game' – comes to mind and the Barbara Lewis sad song 'Hello Stranger' has a super-cool jazz arrangement which lets Samantha fly like a bird. The CD has a couple of extra tracks but the last 'official' track is a spectacular rendition of the Skip James standard 'Crow Jane'. This brings to bear the powerful brass line up, some heavy guitar and Samantha's great smack-you-in-the-face version of those vengeful lyrics.
This is an exciting, fresh, exhuberant and accomplished album. On here, Samantha has found a band, producer and mix-master who have given her the perfect vehicle to display her huge talent. Now, if they could bring the whole album to a live performance, I guarantee the walls would tumble and the roof would float away. Out at the end of March. Go buy.