Samantha Fish

(CD - Concord / Rounder #7226466)

Review by Thom Jurek

When Samantha Fish released Kill or Be Kind in 2019, she scored a hit with the unruly, choogling set opener "Bulletproof, which featured an uncharacteristic use of pulsing keyboard and bass rhythms, distorted guitars, and electronically treated vocals. Though the tune came straight from the deepest, meanest well of the electric Delta tradition, the production signature proved a deft touch. It made blues palatable to an audience who knew little about the genre and cared even less. Fish goes further down that road on Faster by incorporating elements of pop, indie, contemporary R&B, and hip-hop into her brand of scorching blues-rock. It was produced by and co-written with multi-instrumentalist Martin Kierszenbaum (Sting, Lady Gaga, Robyn, Enrique Iglesias). The rest of the lineup includes drummer Josh Freese (Guns N' Roses, Nine Inch Nails) and bassist Diego Navaira (the Last Bandoleros). In addition to producing and songwriting, Kierszenbaum helped arrange the tunes and played guitars, bass, piano, keyboards, and did programming.

The title cut commences with a riff straight out of R.L Burnside before careening across garage rock à la Joan Jett. "Twisted Ambition" commences with spiky lead vamps and a pulsing synth before her vocal guides the tune's infectious hook. Triple-tracked harmonies on the refrain accentuate the melody while Fish's guitar bites all over the place. There are few solos on the record -- most tunes are between two and three minutes -- but her fills and accents offer plenty of six-string revelry. The use of neo-electro and jazzy keys on "Hypnotic," complete with carefully placed electronic blips and bubbles, frame fine contemporary R&B-styled vocals, buoyed by a screaming guitar break. Fans might have a hard time recognizing Fish on the poppy Bangles-esque "Forever Together," but the song works because of her glorious singing, a catchy drum track, and a killer melodic hook. "Crowd Control" is a straight-up pop-cum-soul number, at least until her guitar mangles it all Link Wray-style near the end. "Imaginary War" returns to nasty, funky blues-rock with careening guitars, basses, organ, and sultry vocals. "Loud" is a gentle pop song before the band slowly erects a dynamic crescendo and ushers in a hip-hop finale, courtesy of a guest rap by Tech N9ne. "So-Called Lover," with its nasty, power-riffing guitar, pumping Jerry Lee Lewis-styled piano, and whomping drums, is a barn-burning rocker. "Like a Classic" exquisitely balances neo-soul and girl group pop with a swaggering attitude. The set closes with the sweeping, cinematic "All the Words," which seamlessly weds neo-soul and pop. Faster may piss off blues purists, but that's their problem. Fish uses the genre aptly in these well-crafted songs; she extends their reach to dance with sophisticated modern pop that in turn gleefully meets her brand of unruly rockin' blues.

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