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Kansas City's Samantha Fish Brings Youth and Energy to the Blues

Samantha Fish performs with her band at Margaret T. Hance Park earlier this month.
Samantha Fish performs with her band at Margaret T. Hance Park earlier this month.
Benjamin Leatherman

The month of March has been rife with big concerts and unforgettable performances. And one of the more memorable moments thus far was when the Samantha Fish Band played her first-ever show in Phoenix while headlining Blues Blast 2014.

The 25-year-old blues wunderkind, who hails from Kansas City, Missouri, is renowned for her sultry voice and talents of the guitar, both of which she showed off during the event, which took place earlier this month at Margaret T. Hance Park.

The blues frontwoman and the other members of her trio, the Samantha Fish Band, lived up to their billing atop the Blues Blast lineup by performing for well over an hour and wailing away on their respective instruments. And believe us, they certainly can wail.

Fish's onstage energy tends to get crowd's up an moving, which was certainly the case at Blues Blast when those in attendance moved right in front of the stage to get the dance vibes going.

Fish most definitely had fun during the gig, and later told Up On the Sun that Blues Blast was a great experience.

"This was my first time in Phoenix and it was a helluva bang," she says.

Jim Crawford, president of the Phoenix Blues Society (the local organization that hosted and organized the event), was also thrilled with Fish's performance and said that she brought a lot to the Blues Blast.

"Samantha was an excellent choice for us this year," he says. "Not only is she a great player, she commands the stage like someone far older. We've been trying to lure a younger audience to join us at Blues Blast and we believe Samantha and her band helped us. There were a lot of younger faces in the crowd."

And, Crawford adds, while Fish's choice of covering such hard rock songs as Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" towards the end of her set may have "raised some eyebrows" among the hardcore blues fans, it was ultimately her show and no one in attendance asked for their money back.

He also hopes that Fish will make Phoenix a regular stop during her future tours. That's a good bet, based on Fish's enjoyable experience at Blues Blast, especially watching Sugaray Rayford and the Rhythm Room All-Stars perform before she went on stage.

"I love the festival element because it allows us to take in what our fellow musicians are doing," she says.

 

Fish also enjoyed the vibes enough that later that night she joined in the after party at the Rhythm Room where her band performed along with Bob Margolin, Bob Corritore, and Bill Tarsha.

"All of these blues cats are great because they have a sense of humor," she says.

Fish has been both channeling and performing alongside veterans of the blues for years. While she's old enough and experienced enough to have made her own name in the blues business, but she's young enough to appreciate the musicians who preceded her.

For instance, she was thrilled when she met John Hyatt. Not only was he cool to speak with, but also he remembered her name. They were able to discuss songwriting, which was an epic music moment for Fish.

Fish grew up in a musical family where her father played the guitar as a hobby and her mother sang in church choirs. Samantha started playing the drums at the age of 13, but soon picked up one of the guitars that was hanging around the house. A few years after, she was playing in bands around her hometown by the time she was 15.

Fish learned some blues standards in Kansas City, but it was when she attended the King Biscuit Festival that she became hooked on the Mississippi sounds of R.L. Burnside and other guitarists.

She has had several other influences including Hyatt and Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as the likes of blues artists both classic (Freddie King, Charlie Patton) and contemporary (Tab Benoit, Tommy Castro).

You can hear Fish's influences on her latest CD, Black Wind Howlin'. The 12-song CD was produced by blues great Mike Zito, who joins in on guitar and vocals on some tracks, as does harmonica sensation Johnny Sansone and singer Paul Thorne, the latter of which performs a great duet with Fish.

Most of the songs on Black Wind Howlin' gave Fish a chance to display her talents on the six-string, but when the guitar goes softer the beauty of Fish's voice comes out.

"Go to Hell" is a solid song because it's something everybody can relate to: Somebody they met either at work, or are in a relationship with, or are a member of their family that they really want to tell off. Meanwhile, "Black Wind Howlin," the title track on the CD, is about an infidelity that led to a shooting, which (unlike "Go to Hell") Fish makes clear is not about her life.

"Last September" is the last song on the CD and is a country blues song that shows the warmth in Fish's voice. Fiddle player Bo Thomas is also outstanding on the track. Fish's backing band of Yonrico Scott on drums and Charlie Wooton on bass are both veteran performers who bring their able talents to her mix of old and new.

Find any blues gig in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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