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Samantha Fish is making her mark on contemporary blues

Driven by the Blues

Written & Photographed by Brooke Billick

Samantha Fish is on a mission.  She is seeking to put her unique brand on today’s blues scene through her creative and fresh song-writing, blending different styles and her tireless touring schedule.  At her young age, her impact has been felt, as evidenced by her growing number of awards and accolades over the past few years, such as 2018 Contemporary Blues Female Artist by the Blues Music Association.

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Samantha Fish loves the blues – it’s been part of her DNA since she was a teenager.  That much is evident from the first time she walks on stage until her final curtain call with her band and friends.  You can tell it in the intensity with which she plays and the passion evident in her music.

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On Tuesday, December 11, Samantha Fish brought her band to Shank Hall, Milwaukee.  Her third appearance in two years at this intimate, cabaret-style venue, Samantha has a loyal fan base in the area, evidenced by the packed house.

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Backed by a talented band, Samantha’s set was mostly comprised of her songs from her 2017 releases, Chills & Fever and Belle of the West, both of which represent her different and unique approaches to her music.  She opened the show with “American Dream,” her take on the challenges facing contemporary life in America.  With a deep sax lead-in, Samantha then launched into “Chills & Fever,” a mellower, deeply sax infused tune that brings to mind a sultry torch singer from a bygone era.

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Her shows highlight the depth of her talent.  Tunes like “Either Way I Lose” feature her soaring vocals, tinged with a sadness of bitter experiences.  Samantha Fish’s guitar virtuosity was on display repeatedly throughout the evening, including her changes from acoustic to electric to her cigar box during single songs, as the tempo changed.  Samantha’s bat-outta-hell guitar shredding showed up many times, including on “Crow Jane,” where she also used a vintage ‘40’s era microphone to add a special edginess to her voice.

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Samantha Fish is a regular at major blues festivals every year and is comfortable playing in all kinds of venues.  Playing in small, intimate venue like Shank Hall, however, allows her to interact with the audience on a more personal level.  Throughout the evening, she responded to individual song requests and shout-outs of appreciation with a wide smile.  However, in response to one shout out, Samantha did respond with “Not playing Free Bird, sir!”

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Samantha Fish is one of the hardest working musicians today with huge travel schedule, playing 50 or more shows a year throughout the U.S. and internationally.  At one point during the evening, Samantha joked about her confusion with the date and said “well, let’s just treat this as Monday.”  But if she is fatigued with her grueling schedule, it wasn’t the least bit evident from the energy and enthusiasm she brought to the show.

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The audience loved her performance and included rabid fans who have seen her many times.  One couple I spoke with have seen Samantha Fish five times in the last two years traveling to Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Milwaukee.

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Late 2018 brought a change in her record label as she transitioned from German-based Ruf Records to Nashville-based Rounder Records.  With a deep stable of Americana roots, bluegrass and blues recording stars like Alison Krauss, Gregg Allman and Béla Fleck, Rounder should be a good fit for Samantha Fish’s talent and energy.

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Not content to simply wow us with her music, Samantha is also expanding her influence on the blues rock scene as a producer.  With a nod to her 2015 release, Samantha Fish’s new label, Wild Heart Records, has launched Jonathon Long’s self-titled album. 

Lousiana-based Jonathon Long opened for Samantha Fish, bringing his own hard-driving guitar style which has been described as covering the whole Soul Blues Rock spectrum.  Jonathon is also a talented singer-songwriter who has begun to receive a number of accolades.

For the encore to the show, Samantha Fish was joined on stage by Jonathon Long, where they sang the duet “The River” appearing on Long’s release.

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Samantha Fish is deeply appreciative of her fan base.  Exhibit A of that appreciation is reflected in the time she spends after every show meeting her fans.  With a long line of folks lined up for vinyl, CD;s, and posters – as always, Samantha kindly accommodated autographs and an endless stream of selfies.  She makes herself available and shows that she is of the people.

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Samantha Fish will be closing her 2018 tour with shows at her home venue, Knuckleheads Saloon in Kansas City and two shows at Old Rock House in St. Louis.  She will begin her 2019 tour schedule as one of the headliners for Johnny Winter’s Jamaica Winterfest, followed by shows in Texas, Georgia and Florida.  May 2019 will see Samantha Fish and her band embarking on a European tour. 

In between her tour dates, Samantha will be heading into the studio in the upcoming weeks to record her next release.  We’ll be looking forward to it!

If you’re a fan of hard-driving blues, Samantha Fish is a must-see.  Just don’t ask her to play Free Bird!

Much thanks to Rick Belanger for the set list.

For ticket and tour information visit Samantha Fish

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