Album Reviews

Samantha Fish

Belle of the West

Artist:     Samantha Fish

Album:     Belle of the West

Label:     Ruf

Release Date:     11-04-2017

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The career of singer, songwriter and guitarist Samantha Fish has had more hairpin turns than a roller coaster ride. After making a name for herself churning out no-nonsense electric blues and three-chord rock, Fish broadened her musical palette with the 2015 release Wild Heart. Produced my Luther Dickinson, the album found Fish exploring Americana and acoustic blues. Last year’s Chills and Fever felt like a 180 degree turn. Fish’s collection of soul and R&B covers featured polished musicianship and outstanding vocal work, but some longtime fans missed the bluesy grit of Samantha’s earlier work. Recorded in North Mississippi with Luther Dickinson once again in the producer’s chair, Belle of the West should satisfy fans who’ve grown to love the down-to-earth passion in Fish’s music.

The stripped-down, largely acoustic arrangements on Belle of the West make the recording feel like Fish’s most personal and introspective performance to date. The music gives listeners a glimpse into the soul of a woman from Kansas City who’s rapidly become a rising star. Fish’s love for Mississippi Hill Country is nicely showcased on the new album. “American Dream” features fief, drums and fiddle as accompaniment and a spirited cover of “Poor Black Mattie” pairs Fish with her frequent onstage collaborator Lighntnin’ Malcolm. “Nearing Home” is a heartfelt acoustic ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place onstage at Nashville’s annual Americana Fest – fiddle and delicate harmonies on the chorus flesh out the sound. “Cowtown” is an anthemic piece of roots rock that ought to bring the down the house when performed live. A delicate mix of acoustic and electric guitars support Fish’s passionate vocals on one of her most clearly autobiographical tunes.

Fish is quickly assembling a catalog of almost dizzying depth and breadth, all while maintaining a rigorous touring schedule. She’s a rising star in the roots music world, and Belle of the West will leave fans smiling and wondering where she’ll go next.

—Jon Kleinman

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