Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton “Death Wish Blues”
Blues Guy is a dying breed. You know, the guy who thinks blues music should sound a certain way, at a certain pace, and almost assuredly be played by a man. The rest of us, though, want something new and fresh mixed in with our tradition. Samantha Fish has made herself a fixture in the blues world in the most basic of ways – working hard and playing the hell out of her guitar. Jesse Dayton enters this arena via a more winding path – years of songwriting, touring and working with everyone from Johnny Cash to Rob Zombie. After tracking each other’s careers for more than a decade, the pair is finally working together, first with last year’s covers EP, Stardust Sessions, and now with a proper album of originals, Death Wish Blues, on which the pair of shredders bend notes and twists expectations with equal ferocity.
To fit their vision of a blues record that pushes beyond the norm, the pair enlisted Jon Spencer (of Jon Spencer Blues Explosion) to produce, and he let the pair loose in the studio as part of a five-piece band, largely cutting the album live. Album starter “Deathwish” is a stomper, led by Fish’s acidic vocals, about that creep that is, somehow, irresistible – “Leans in goin’ towards her lips, it’s all over with his hands on her hips.” The next track, “Down in the Mud,” trades in blues for funk in a Dayton-penned song that gives bassist Kendall Wind and organist Mickey Finn room to shine along with all of the guitar interplay.
Fish (with longtime collaborator Jim McCormick) and Dayton split songwriting duties across the record, and their vocal interplay indicates their shared experiences as much as their musical partnership. “Riders” is an incendiary road tune about hit-and-run trysts and the hustle for every payday – “Maybe someday, if I settle down, then I’ll know where I belong” puts their shared wanderlust on display, while “You know it’s a hard dollar, darlin’/But we just can’t let it go” exemplifies the burn-miles-to-earn cycle of pretty much every touring musician these days.
Solo artists working together can introduce a new dynamic to each other’s work. In the case of Death Wish Blues, Dayton indicates that vulnerability was something he found in working with Fish. “No Apology” strips away most of the nifty vocal effects, allowing Fish to make a natural, bluesy appeal for a less volatile relationship – “I can’t be your enemy and your everything.” And “Know My Heart,” a vocal tradeoff with nice acoustic work, displays the depth of musical kindred between the two while, of course, ending the record in a swirl of electric guitars. Because, when you have two of the best players on the planet in the same room, what else are you gonna do?
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Rippin’ and Runnin’” – a slow burn that starts acoustic and ends as a scorcher, with the best guitar work on the record.
Death Wish Blues was produced by Jon Spencer, recorded and mixed by Chris Bittner and mastered by Chris Athens. Songs written by Samantha Fish and Jesse Dayton, with co-writing credits going to Jim McCormick. Additional musicians on the album include Kendall Wind (bass), Mickey Finn (keyboards) and Aaron Johnston (drums).
Go here to order Death Wish Blues (out May 19): https://found.ee/SFJDDeathwish