Samantha Fish turns from blues to roots rock, and vice versa | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Samantha Fish turns from blues to roots rock, and vice versa 

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click to enlarge Samantha Fish

Samantha Fish

Brian Rozman

In the past, eclectic roots exploration with a beat was the purview of rootsy rock acts like Rod Stewart or the Band. More recently, the torch has been picked up by blues acts. Valerie June’s last couple of albums—including last year’s excellent The Order of Time—mix roots traditions and swagger into a boiling stew worthy of the Rolling Stones or Dylan. Samantha Fish’s second album from 2017, Belle of the West (Ruf), follows in those same eclectic footsteps. Produced by Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi All-Stars fame, the album includes stomping country blues—complete with flute—on “American Dream” and a flirtatious acoustic call-and-response with Lightnin’ Malcolm on “Poor Black Mattie.” But it also goes further afield with the echoey, folk-tinged “Daughters” and the fiddle and country harmonizing of “Nearing Home.” “Tell me where I’m goin’ / ’cause I thought I was nearing home,” Fish sings on that last number, trading her familiar bluesy shout for a delicate quaver that sounds more like Iris Dement than B.B. King. The title track, “Belle of the West,” has a lazy, shoulder-shrugging sway that just about cries out for an Emmylou Harris cover. A retro-roots potpourri isn’t the sure chart-topper it used to be, but Fish makes you wish it was no matter which genre she fits in, or doesn’t.   v

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