Samantha Fish and Jesse Dayton – Death Wish Blues


Last year’s The Stardust Sessions (reviewed here) EP from this pairing offered a trio of raucous and racy rock ‘n blues tunes that sounded like a lot of fun. That is, if you didn’t mind stepping over the broken glass from the bar room fight you imagined might well have taken place prior to their lively recording. This time round, the debris’ been swept clean away, because the dance floor’s needed.

A far slicker delivery by all concerned this time round, but not so as it takes the edge away. There’s a definite compatibility by Samantha Fish and Jesse Dayton on record here; generally, each taking a song vocally with the other joining on choruses, rebukes, amusing asides or harmonies as appropriate, what each do with their guitars might take deeper listening. Most telling, there’s a beat and groove to every tune that even those with two left legs might be tempted to bust a move to.

Deathwish’ wriggles in with deceptive cosiness, Fish relating some small-town crime noir scenario where a femme fatale may just have got in a little too deep for comfort, whether that be because of the bad-ass dude she’s attracted to or otherwise. Either way, the pace and intensity heightens in line with the narrative, and proves an understated short form story delight. Dayton takes lead for ‘Down In The Mud’, though Fish adds many a harmony line – Here the newish listener becomes more appreciative of Dayton’s vocal abilities, pitched tonally close to a taught Tom Jones or maybe Blood, Sweat & Tears’ David Clayton-Thomas, whereas the title implies some southern state river blues it gets progressively loose and funky.

Joining the dots musically between the opening two numbers is ‘Riders’ where they trade lines telling tall stories and sound like they’re having a lot of fun on this low riding blues drive before it steers toward a drag race collision as guitars crash and splinter. ‘Settle For Less’ has Fish continuing the storytelling qualities of ‘Deathwish’, possibly a little more literate, with all the bump and grind of her solo radio hits, and some rather choice noisy guitar work filtering in and about. More incessant on the beat is ‘Trauma’, where again sly little guitar tweaks add immensely, it then goes into a fat-assed heavy blues rock beat ala Cream, concluding with a wicked little laugh from Dayton before returning to the main song, then heading towards vocal overdub crescendo.

No Apology’ is the kind of country-imbued rock ballad the Stones used to deliver before Mick Taylor jumped ship. It’s wistful, emotive, with impassioned lead vocals from Fish. The song falls perfectly if listening to this album in its intended running order. ‘Flooded Love’ follows on a righteous warpath, the pairings’ vocals matching nicely, guitars making suitably weird noises along the way and exploding mightily midway, albeit briefly. The fun Fish and Dayton had while recording this album is non-more evident than on ‘Lover On The Side’, this nimble shuffle derails coyness to declare the details of its illicit storyline via amusing, sensual and precariously dangerous vocal exchanges. A heavier blues boogie beat of ‘Rippin’ And Runnin’’ implies the characters’ portrayed in the last number, didn’t last the distance, while the following ‘Dangerous People’ aptly outlines what the whole damn album’s themes adding modern R ’n B tweaks and a few grunge-like sounds, not least by way of clever percussive elements, on a heavy choral blues that threatens downer rock but refuses keeping that dance vibe running – Never more obvious than ‘Supadupabad’ where they mix blaxploitation motifs with a – I daresay unintended – progressive rock feel.

Death Wish Blues ends with ‘Know My Heart’, another shared vocal delivery for a sweet country rock ballad, with acoustic picking, a gorgeous low swinging keyboard sound, then going for a brief-ish power ballad moment with electric guitars bleeding out as they once more exude heady one-liners in conclusion.

If this is but a brief interlude for Fish and Dayton, that’s fine. If they continue to collaborate beyond the current joint touring to promote this album, that’s cool. Each bring something to the table; the combination works on several levels. Many of the songs will raise a smile, it’s quite possible they’ll also make you want to dance. It has legs, it works.

Track list:

  1. Deathwish
  2. Down In The Mud
  3. Riders
  4. Settle For Less
  5. Trauma
  6. No Apology
  7. Flooded Love
  8. Lover On The Side
  9. Rippin’ And Runnin’
  10. Dangerous People
  11. Supadupabad
  12. Know My Heart