BELLE OF THE WEST
The Whole Roots and Blues Range In One Glorious Album.
When you are spending your own hard earned money buying albums it’s always a ‘considered purchase’ isn’t it; even if it’s only because you fancy trying something after reading a review (you are welcome Ed.) but in this reviewers case 90% of the albums I slide into the office CD player are brand new entities for me; and that includes Samantha Fish; a name I have been aware of for several years but know absolutely nothing about.
As usual in such cases I depend on the opening track to pique my attention.
American Dream absolutely floored me the first time I heard it and it’s difficult to explain why. There’s an almost raw Native American beat with some kind of penny whistle accompanying Ms. Fish and her pearlescent pleading voice on an angry but restrained song about the broken American Dream. ‘Powerful’ doesn’t even come close to describing how this song comes across.
I suppose I was expecting a full on Blues-Rock album; but nothing could be further from the truth as Samantha mines the darkest recesses of her Heart and Soul on the slow smouldering Cowtown and Don’t Say You Love Me.
There’s plenty of super-cool guitar licks here to satisfy Samantha’s core fans; but more restrained and generally wound as tight as a coil rather than fluid and loud.
Another thing of note is the way the singer mines the Countrier and Folkier end of the Blues on Blood on The Water and even more impressively the beautiful title track Belle of The West; with both featuring some sublime fiddle playing from Lillie May and mandolin from Luther Dickinson which combine to really enhance two starkly intimate stories.
It would be truly lazy of me to actually compare Samantha Fish to Lucinda Williams and/or Bonnie Raitt at this stage but fans of both will fall in love with this album for all the reasons they love those two Americana Goddesses.
While primarily a ‘Blues’ album Samantha throws a beautifully judged curve-ball with the Country enhanced Nearing Home which features Lillie Mae’s sublime violin playing as Ms. Fish purrs her way through a beautifully sad love long; that could easily be picked up by the likes of the Dixie Chicks to make a multi-million selling hit with.
This is strictly a personal thing; but two songs stand out like poppies in a wheat-field; the raw duet with Lightnin’ Malcolm on the toe-tappin’ Country Blues interpretation of RL Burnside’s Poor Black Mattie…….red hot vocals, harmonica and slide guitar? What’s not to like?
The other is probably my actual ‘favourite song’…….No Angels, which is also from the darker end of the spectrum and send chills down my spine each time I heard it; and will continue to do so over the next ten years.
Produced by Luther Dickinson and featuring a host of recognisable names this album is very much a ‘keeper’ and will be pulled out of the rack every time I need a shot of Bourbon flavoured Country Blues.
Released November 17th 2017