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This is a really interesting and enjoyable record; anyone who’s seen Samantha Fish play live will know that she rocks out and plays full on hard blues guitar, with an original approach. However, on record she is ready to experiment with different sounds, which makes a nice change from many of her peers, and this collection continues that adventurous journey, travelling through a number of genres, but achieving an overall homogenous flow due to the Kansas lady’s distinctive vocals and equally original guitar style, the latter of which I like a lot. Her solos are imaginative and original and always service the song, adding an extra dimension to the structure of each rather than the song being filler to get to the solo, which can be the case with some guitarists, who may have technical nous but lack artistry. Her playing is geared to creating a dynamic sound that has an almost off the cuff feel, with an element of grunge.
The songs were recorded at Royal Studios in Memphis, overseen by producer Scott Billington and the influence of the heritage associated with the Memphis sound is heard first on the title track (you have to love a punning title) “Kill or Be Kind” with its soulful bass line and loose keyboard chords preceding Sam’s seductive vocals delivering the opening line “back before I was a home-wrecker, I was a goody goody girl” leading to the chorus and the short stabbing blasts of the horn section joining in. There’s a lot going on in these tracks, some very thoughtful arrangements, but the backing is always subservient to the lead vocal; taking of which, the vocals have been recorded very dry with seemingly little done to enhance them, giving the collection a very lo-fi, laidback feel, an impression reinforced by the lady’s guitar work, which has an equally spontaneous feel. The vocals slide around the songs, hitting high notes, wailing at times before slipping back into the relaxed smoothness of many of the slower cuts.
The collection kicks off with “Bulletproof” a raucous, blues open-tuning slide blast that distinguishes itself from many similar romps you come across by the choice of notes (sound obvious really) used in the slide riff, the emphasis on the last two notes is somehow unexpected, even though they form part of the scale; it’s just not the normal choice that the average player would make and lends an element of quirkiness to the proceedings. “Watch it Die” is cut from the same cloth, a busy, insistent slide riff that drives the song with rising power chords and horns kicking in on the chorus. My personal favourite in this fine collection is “Love Letters” a slow groove driven by a chilled organ and an earworm of what sounds like a bent guitar note sampled (possibly played backwards!), interspersed with some subtle synth and a beguiling melody, all topped off with a fierce solo. A distinctive sound. Many of the other songs have a more Memphis feel with a soft backbeat and a horn section tastefully coming at different points to create a counterpoint. “Fair Weather” is a lovely song of disappointed love, which is a bit of a theme throughout. Sam Fish used the services of a number of established songwriters to assist in the writing of these songs and the benefits of doing this are clear across the 11 songs in this collection, which are full of melodies and interesting hooks and seem to offer up new things to discover each time you play them. Lines like the opener to “Dirty” offer a new slant on a traditional theme, “How can you wash away the mess that you made with me, your love is dirty…”. “Dream Girl” has a slow ambient beat and a delicious melody, sensitively and beautifully sung by the singer/guitarist, a really nice track. Each song has something going for it and the combined effect of all these numbers makes a fine addition to an already interesting back catalogue.
EIGHTdoodle paws out of TEN …
- Kill or Be Kind
- Love Letters
- Watch It Die
- Try Not to Fall in Love With You
- Love Your Lies
- Dream Girl
- She Don’t Live Around Here
- You Got It Bad