Samantha Fish Flashes It Up on Sweaty’Faster’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

In keeping with the album’s title, Samantha Fish makes an all-out effort to ratchet up the intensity on Faster and it begins right with the front cover. Whereas her last record, Kill Or Be Kind, found the rockin’ blueswoman striking the saucy pose of a blonde bombshell, the main album image here goes way beyond merely suggestive. The music behind the art more or less follows suit, with flashes of Fish’s vivid persona throughout the LP.

Contributing guitar, piano, keyboards, and percussion, Martin Kierszenbaum also produced sessions that run the gamut of style in addition to, not instead of, the crunching guitar and near banshee wail of the title song. Would that more numbers followed suit though because too often the arrangements sound like a balancing act between Samantha’s earthy presence and that of such generic instrumentals rendered by the former collaborator of Lady Gaga and Sting and a  rhythm section comprising drummer Josh Freese (Guns N’ Roses, Nine Inch Nails, The Replacements) and bassist Diego Navaira (The Last Bandoleros).

Fortunately, Fish is herself so vibrant a character she projects the alternately seductive and sultry persona that reaffirms the intentions at the heart of this album, i.e., reasserting the no-nonsense image of the previous LP to prevent any further pigeonholing of this independent woman artist. With no track exceeding five minutes, and the unity of the musicians compensating for the extraneous mechanical textures of “All Ice No Whiskey,” a sweaty atmosphere pervades Faster, an air  Fish’s baby-doll vocal intonations only further emphasize.

But it’s significant  she sings it straight and without affectation (except for the refrain) on “Twisted Ambition.” Here’s one instance where synthesizers, et. al., conform with rather than contradict the scenario of the song; accordingly, when the bolts of electric guitar shoot across the stereo spectrum, Samantha Fish has made her point in no uncertain terms. Likewise, acoustic piano personalizes “Hypnotic,” rendering the track more potent than it might otherwise be.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case with “Together Forever” or “Imaginary War.” Both too closely resemble 80’s recording architecture and if it weren’t for the scythe-like cut of electric guitar on the latter, for instance, the tracks would blur together. Yet here, on “Loud,” just when this record seems on the verge of becoming bogged down in antiseptic textures, Samantha warbles tunefully over more chiming piano—at least before the stomping refrain by which the tune lives up to its title (albeit somewhat clumsily). 

It’s a tribute to the artist’s projection of her own distinct personality that the cut remains listenable. Participation of rapper/singer/songwriter Tech N9ne on that track only slightly echoes the Fish imprint, as does “Better Be Lonely,” something of a barrel-house blues cum doo-wop number that freshens the momentum of the track progression. In fact, Louder races to a fast finish on the headlong pace of “So-Called Lover”—where practically obscene guitar figures fly around—and “Like A Classic” on which Samantha is more upfront than on any other cut of the dozen here.

At least until “All The Words,” that is. Practically a solo number with only organ and piano present to conjure an intimate tone to match the forthright singing, this is an ideal closing to an album that would benefit from more such stripped-down performances. As such, it renders the LP’s title a word of encouragement for Samantha Fish to maintain much this same elemental approach when she records next.

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4 Responses

  1. This is a thoughtful and very well informed review thank you very much.
    Best wishes from this corner of the UK

  2. The Faster Album is hard to follow and not the best work she has turned out. To be quite honest this sounds like the sound engineer decided to auto tune the entire album to make it appeal to the masses, not pandering to her base that purchased all the other albums prior to this one…… More over she would have been best suited with sticking to what she does, play the blues and not get wrapped up into this Hit Hop Collaborative thing….Sorry but this will prove to be an epic wrong turn for her sound she had established for several years…..People that will like this album will not be the people buying concert tickets come the spring to see you play…I would have bought tickets but when I heard this new album, I was like “yeah, I will wait til couple years for another album”

    1. As a somewhat newcomer to Ms. Fish, whom I refer to as Sammy to my friends, I don’t have the decade-long history with her music that many of you do. I have her entire catalog but have acquired it only in the last year when I discovered her music. So, please forgive me for not being there in the beginning. Having said that, and having a relatively new perspective on this woman’s mastery of the guitar, singing and songwriting, primarily for a Blues and Country tradition, I find this album to be absolutely thrilling! I have heard the album twice now and can’t stop thinking of it. I look forward to tomorrow when I will play it again. I believe this new direction and the wonderful work of the Producer on this album will serve to open her up to a much wider audience. But, since it is such a departure from her previous work, I wondered how her base would view it. The thought of Dylan turning to electric music came to mind. I hope the fanbase will embrace this album and hopefully Ms. Fish’s evolution into a more pop-rock based sound rather than opine for the old days and cry for more of the same. Sammy is evolving. Support her. Wish her luck. Be there to cheer for her when she comes to town. And, most of all, evolve with her. It sounds like the ride is going to be a hoot!

  3. I think Faster is a terrific record – and I own all her albums. Saw her on this tour as well. Twisted Ambition might be my favorite track of hers to date. Go where you will Samantha and I will follow – just don’t stop playing killer guitar and belting out powerful tunes. Blues fans have a rather narrow window of what’s acceptable. The vitriol she’s gotten over her collaboration with Tech9ne on one song is baffling. Except that I noticed, looking around at her Brooklyn Bowl show last year, that 99% of her audience was white, over 50, and maskless.

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