Following five albums with Germany’s Ruf Records, blues, rock and more singer—guitarist Samantha Fish—moves to the great American roots-music label, Rounder Records. Fish and fellow New Orleans resident, Grammy-winning producer Scott Billington, recorded the Kill or Be Kind album at Royal Studios in Memphis and The Rhythm Shack and The Music Shed in New Orleans.
Traversing rock, blues, R&B, soul and country-soul, Kill or Be Kind puts Fish’s high, plaintive voice and slicing guitar in the service of emotionally direct songs she co-wrote with noted tunesmiths. The title song’s punchy horns, electric piano and tempting groove evoke classic Memphis soul. Fish’s vocal performance for the even more Memphis-flavored “Try Not to Fall in Love with You” show her at her most vulnerable.
Fish, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, melds Memphis soul and Southern rock in the soft-to-loud dynamics of “You Got It Bad.” The album’s other rock-oriented songs include “Bulletproof,” featuring heavy blues-rock guitar, simple, throbbing bass and Fish’s distorted vocals in an exploding chorus. In a blues-rock vein, “Watch It Die” follows the riffing precedent set by ZZ Top until Fish’s wailing vocals take unexpected melodic turns.
Setting a slower but deliberate walking tempo, “She Don’t Live Around Here Anymore” moves to Muscle Shoals country-soul, as the over-it Fish tells to a former lover it’s too late to try again. A breakup scenario also appears in “Fair-Weather,” but this time Fish is still mourning the loss. “All the time we spent together doesn’t mean much to you,” she sings. “Someday, somehow, you’ll see the truth.”
Fish need not be the world’s best blues-rock singer or guitarist. The totality of her versatility, expression, solid guitar skills and on-stage prowess fuse into a dynamic package.