Catching a major talent like Samantha Fish and her band in an intimate venue like The Capital Ale House is a rare experience. Fish made the most of it by turning in an outstanding show and the audience hung on every note.
Fish is backed by a five-piece ensemble that included a horn section comprised of Mark Levron on trumpet and Travis Blotsky on baritone and tenor saxophone; a rhythm section made up of Kenny Tudrick on drums and Chris Alexander on bass; and Phil Breen on keyboards. She herself handles all of the lead vocals as well as guitar.
Decked out in tight red pants, a leopard print top, and the iconic rock and roll leather jacket, she commanded the stage launching into a series of fast- paced, hard-rocking numbers from her 2017 Ruf Records release, Chills & Fever.
The jacket was gone by the start of the fourth number and the high heels shortly after, but neither affected her stage presence as she interacted with each member of the band, egging them to take their performances to ever higher levels.
Fish has been experimenting with her sound on the last couple of albums, moving away from the strict blues world into one where blues rock and straight rock rule. She manages to capture the original spirit of rock as a rebellious anthem and that’s a pretty cool thing considering her young age. She channels the greats through her fiery guitar and summons the attitudes of others who know that music is the energy that can unite people in a unique manner.
After five songs in which she establishes that she can handle hard rock, she slows the tempo down for Hurts So Good. It’s a good song that serves to give the audience a chance to catch its breath. The respite is short lived as she launches back into up tempo songs including Either Way I Lose, and Somebody Told Me.
Many of the crowd was there because they are fans of her earlier blues work. While she didn’t do a lot of straight blues, she did an outstanding job on Charley Patton’s Jim Lee Blues on an acoustic guitar. Later in the show, she added some wicked slide guitar on It’s Your Voodoo Working, and even some wild Cigar Box Guitar slide work on her last song.
I must confess I didn’t even catch the name of the song because like most of the audience, I was on my feet applauding the performance. The ovation continued after she left the stage until she returned for a two song encore.
She started her encore with a lovely version of her own song, Go Home, which was on her previous album, Wild Heart.
Fish is on an extended tour to promote Chills & Fever and is playing a good mix of larger clubs and intimate venues. Wherever you can catch her, you should. This wren-thin lady knows how to put together an amazing show. Her band is tight, and seem to make each other better. She’s an incredible guitarist and her vocals run the gamut from a soft wistful dreamlike invocation to deep blues to rock with a razor sharp edge.
Opening for Fish was Kari Smith, a Richmond performer who recently relocated here after a ten-year stay in Nashville. Smith, a solo performer, ran through approximately a dozen songs. She has a good voice and is an excellent musician. She used a looping system to add percussion and harmony vocals to her performance and I would be interested to hear one of her full sets as she trades off between guitar and piano to add more depth to the experience. I did pick up one of her albums and look forward to giving it a listen soon.
Get out and see live music. Richmond is fortunate to have several venues that are bringing in great blues and roots musicians and it’s up to us to support their efforts. If we don’t show up, these venues will most likely drop these performers in favor of another genre. I don’t know about you, but I love to catch these artists live and connecting with their audience.
Samantha Fish has many more shows scheduled and you can find out where she’s going to be by going to her website: http://www.samanthafish.com/. If you are in the Richmond area, find other shows by visiting the River City Blues Society’s website: http://www.rivercityblues.org/.
I’ll see you at the show!