Album Reviews

Samantha Fish – Black Wind Howlin’

by A. Alexander HarrisonSeptember 10, 2013
9.5Ruf
2013 

Samantha Fish : Black Wind Howlin'Do you know who Samantha Fish is?  Here’s who she is.  She’s that little girl who came up listening to all the popular local acts and got taken under the wings of all the ‘old guys.’  This is a typical story in country music.  These showgirls learn to smile and wear a dress and strum four chords on an acoustic while a seven-piece band of nameless musicians carries their two-octave range of songs, which are all in C and D.  They all have one and a half hits and then “retire to start a family,” or something.

But Samantha Fish didn’t come up in country music.  She came up in blues.

This girl learned to play her Telecaster like a Goddess of rock, belt out a song – ANY song – at a minute’s notice with flawless delivery, play three full sets in one day without breaking a sweat, beat the tar out of handsy fans and club owners alike, and – get this – SHE CAN WRITE.

Right, so down to the album.  Long-time fans will note that Fish’s art has grown exponentially across the board since her last album, Runaway, was released in April of 2011.  Her younger fans adore her because she isn’t afraid of the word ‘rock.’  The entire album is laced with heavy guitars and blistering solos, as well as chord progressions that deviate drastically from a standard I, IV, V while recognizably maintaining blues themes.  She isn’t afraid to write killer choruses, either.  An impressive rap sheet for a tiny, 24-year-old blonde from Kansas City.

Lyrically, Fish’s work is supreme.  Her stories are both original and deep, while never deviating too far from a certain youthful cheekiness that you might come to expect from a young musician punching above her weight class, as it were.  Her poetic hooks, some subtle, some blatant, are all instant stuck-in-your-head-for-days material.  Don’t listen to Black Wind Howlin’ just before entering polite company, otherwise you’ll wind up sauntering around the office singing “Go to Hell”.

Of course, she’s not ALL attitude.  Just when a particularly staunch critic might be thinking about labeling her the “ugly duckling” or “tomboy” of the latest generation of songstresses, track five hits with “Over You”, a ballad that proves that she’s everything you could ever want her to be.  Blues purists who may be inclined to complain will be promptly silenced by Fish’s cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talkin’?”.

Of course song seven, “Lay It Down”, puts us right back in the grove of a heavy guitar crawl accompanied by lyrical promises to win a QuickDraw gunfight that may or may not crop up in the narratives bar-room setting.

The title piece, “Black Wind Howlin’”, is every bit as mean as it sounds, and is well deserving of the post of titular track, though it’s worth noting with specificity that not one single track on the album is anything less than stand-alone gold.  The only shortfall might arguably come from the fact that track eight, “Heartbreaker”, is in fact another fantastic original, rather than a Led Zeppelin cover.  Hey, nobody’s perfect.

If you aren’t a fan, or you don’t believe you know what ‘blues music’ really is (if you’re not a fan, you don’t), Samantha Fish’s Black Wind Howlin’ is the best album in the world to start with.

Samantha Fish – Lay It Down

Samantha Fish playing “Lay It Down” for Relix Magazine: