Samantha Fish (born 30 January 1989) is a blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter from Kansas City, Missouri, known for her fiery leads and powerful vocals. Although she's generally filed under Blues—she has two #1 Blues albums—her wide-ranging influences include roots rock, country, grunge, and R&B.
Born into a musical family, Fish started out playing drums, but switched to guitar at 15, after a Sheryl Crow concert made her realize that women could play lead. Despite that relatively late start, her musical background, her intense dedication, and the help of family members soon allowed her to master the new instrument. In 2009, at age 20, Fish released a home-made live album, Live Bait—now a collectors item—which got her the attention of Ruf Records. Ruf signed her for a novelty act called Girls with Guitars. The band released a Self-Titled Album in 2011, which included three songs written Fish. It was produced by guitarist Mike Zito, who began mentoring her, and who also produced her first solo studio album, Runaway, which won a Best New Artist award from the Blues Foundation.
In 2013, Fish released her second studio album, Black Wind Howlin', also produced by Mike Zito, and also released her first music video for the song "Lay It Down". The album cover and the video both prominently featured her custom guitar with its stylized fish logo carved in the top.
In 2015, she released Wild Heart, produced by Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, which reached #1 on the Billboard Blues charts. In 2017, she released two albums, and made big changes in the band. Long-time drummer "Go-Go Ray" Pollard left, and Fish added keys and a pair of horn players, changing the trio into a sextet. The year's first album, Chills & Fever, added garage rock and R&B to her sound. For the next album, Belle of the West, she went with a more country-blues style, with more acoustic instruments, including violin. The latter album, which was also produced by Dickinson, also reached #1 on the Blues charts.
Fish is usually vague about her influences, saying she listens to a lot of different people, but tries not to take too much from anyone in particular. As a kid, she mostly listened to classic rock, country, and grunge. She has mentioned The Rolling Stones as a particular favorite. As a pro, she's sought out more of the old, classic blues, but still tries to cast a wide net.
- Live Bait (2009, live, self-released)
- Girls with Guitars (2011, with Dani Wilde and Cassie Taylor)
- Runaway (2011)
- Girls with Guitars Live (2012)
- Black Wind Howlin' (2013)
- Wild Heart (2015)
- Chills & Fever (2017)
- Belle of the West (2017)
- Kill or be Kind (2019)
These tropes are Fishy:
- American Title: "American Dream" from Belle of the West, a somewhat sarcastic look at The American Dream.
- Audience Participation Song: Fish has used her crowd-pleasing "Bitch on the Run" this way, explaining to the audience how to sing the repeated line "Right now, right now I'm feelin' it" when she cues them.
- Break-Up Song: "Go to Hell" is about a boyfriend who thinks too much of himself; not only does she not want him back, she has a suggestion for what he can do instead.
- Card Sharp: In "Lay It Down (Saturday Night)", she meets a card sharp named Jimmy, with an ace up his sleeve. The "it" she lays down is his body — in a shallow grave.
- The Cover Changes the Gender: Her version of Ted Taylor's "Somebody's Always Trying" changes the girlfriend people keep trying to steal into a boyfriend. Most of the changes were simply pronouns ("her" to "him"), but the line "every time I look around there's some new guy, filling up my baby's head with some kind of lie" becomes "every time I look around there's some new tease, filling up my baby's head with all kind of 'please.'"
- Disposing of a Body: The music video for "Lay It Down" features Fish in the woods, digging a grave for the body of a man who tried to cheat her in a Poker game.
- Does Not Like Shoes: She sometimes performs barefoot.
- Driving Song: "Highway's Holding Me Now" is about the pleasures of driving as an escape from a complicated relationship.
- Epic Rocking: Fish usually does this about once per album:
- The title track to her first studio album, Runaway, was mostly an excuse for her to show off some fiery blues licks; it clocked in just over 6 minutes.
- The title track to Black Wind Howlin' was similar; with a blistering solo, the track was just short of seven minutes long.
- The album Wild Heart featured three songs over six minutes long, but only one of them was really a rocker: the haunting post-grunge number "Lost Myself".
- With "Somebody's Always Trying" from Chills & Fever, Fish took an old R&B number from the '60s and added a full-scale psychedelic melt into the middle of it, with lots of guitar and devices and sound-effects, nearly tripling the length of the just-over-two-minute original.
- Gambling Brawl: In "Lay It Down'', the protagonist shoots a man who tries to cheat her in a card game. The official music video features her dragging a body off to the woods and digging a shallow grave.Got an ace up his sleeve and a pistol by my sideAnd if he calls first, I'm going to give it to him right.
- Hard-Drinking Party Girl: The woman described in the first verse of "No Angels" seems to fit this pretty well. She's an "Aphrodite on amphetamines" and likes to "tank up on Tanqueray."
- I Am What I Am: "Wild Heart" is about a woman who is in love with a man, but needs him to stop trying to change her.How many times do you have to see if you can tame
The one you can't tie down
The one who needs you now
Oh baby, why can't I get you out of my wild heart?
- Irony: "American Dream" is dripping with irony.You're the liberated;You are the free.Free to cry and die disenfranchised—Blessed as a country.
- Melismatic Vocals: She does a strong one singing the word "break" on her cover of Nina Simone's "Either Way I Lose", starting with a long sustain on the tonic, and then going up and down through several notes.
- Money Song: The gist of "Money to Burn" is that while money may not be everything, it can make up for a lot of other problems.
- Ms. Fanservice: She frequently performs in vintage "pinup girl" inspired outfits including lots of leather, short skirts and stiletto heels.
- Never My Fault: "Blame It on the Moon" is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek example which basically says, yeah, I've done some bad things, but I've decided to blame it on the moon.
- New Sound Album:
- Chills & Fever added horns, and shifted direction from pure blues to a mix of blues, garage rock, and R&B. It put more emphasis on the vocals, and not as much on Fish's flashy guitar work, and generally had a more sultry, sexy feel than her earlier, in-your-face work. Critics loved it, but the fan reaction was more mixed.
- Belle of the West saw her trying more of an acoustic, almost Alternative Country style.
- Rock Trio: Although she often had guests on her albums, she toured as a power trio with herself on lead guitar and vocals from 2009 till 2017, when she added keys and a couple of horn players.
- The Runaway: "Daughters" mentions this as one of the ways that "daughters break your heart". "Another broken family; Runaway and a casualty." (Curiously, her song "Runaway" has nothing to do with this trope.)
- Small Town Boredom: "Cowtown" is about someone who has finally made the decision to leave the dead-end life in the small "cow" town.