Blues guitarist Samantha Fish takes a soul/R&B side trip | Music Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Blues guitarist Samantha Fish takes a soul/R&B side trip

“Our fans come to the show and they go, ‘OK, I get it!’”

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Kansas City, Mo., musician and vocalist Samantha Fish made a name for herself as one of relatively few female blues guitarists. She prefers to be measured on her own merits rather than as a female musician, though a 2011 album as part of a project called Girls With Guitars didn’t help much in that regard. But after four solo albums, she has made a move that plays to some previously hidden strengths. Chills & Fever is not a traditional electric-blues album: It’s a collection of well-chosen, sometimes little-known rhythm-and-blues covers, with backing by members of the hard-charging, garage-soul outfit Detroit Cobras.

Chills & Fever, and Fish’s current tour in support of that record, represent a change for the 28-year-old guitarist, but not as big a change as listeners might think.

“I’ve always wanted to go with a bigger, more dynamic band,” Fish told City Paper in an interview just before a recent show in Asheville, N.C.

Fish said she met producer Bobby Harlow about a year ago. “He heard this soul thing in my voice that I hadn’t really expressed in any of my previous albums,” she said. “I always loved soul singers when I started singing and playing. But being in a trio, I had focused my vocals in a different way.”

Fish doesn’t think of soul and R&B as distinctly different from the blues, so when she began considering songs for Chills & Fever, she found lots of great material. “We started putting together the album of 1950s and 1960s songs,” she said. “Some of them are crazy obscure. And it’s just a good time to remake songs that are timeless classics.” Some of the tunes — like Barbara Lewis’ “Hello Stranger” — were hits, but Fish said, “I could put my stamp on them.”

She does just that on the album and live in concert, but longtime fans of Fish’s earlier work will be pleased to know that the show still includes plenty of guitar fireworks. “I’m still singing and playing,” she said. “It’s fun to see our fans on this ride with us. They come to the show and they go, ‘OK, I get it!’ As long as we’re up there having fun, people in the audience are going to have fun.”

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