Kansas City contemporary blues artist Samantha Fish discards her “girl with a guitar” image in favor of a retro direction on her covers album ‘Chills & Fever.’ Fish teamed up with producer Bobby Harlow (The GO, Jack White) who added a snappy horn section and keys to augment her trio.
They recorded at the 45 Factory in Detroit to capture that vintage Northern Soul sound, but not to worry there is still plenty of electric guitar on the dozen song set. The title track was a hit for Tom Jones in 1964 and Fish does a spot-on recreation enlisting New Orleans sax man Travis Blotsky to add tasty baritone to the mix, setting the tone for the retro lounge album. The album kicks into gear with a straight up cover of punk blues duo The Detroit Cobras “He Did It,” followed by a modern take on “Hello Stranger,” tackling the pleading vocal made famous by Barbara Lewis another Detroit icon.
Next up on the classic R&B hit parade, the band blows through the 1961 Charles Sheffield hit “It’s Your Voodoo Working.” Unfortunately, the limits of her vocal skills begin to show when Fish tries to take on the Irma Thomas classic “Hurt’s All Gone,” and the supremely huge shoes to fill of Nina Simone and the deep torch blues “Either Way I Lose.” Fish throws her voice around missing the mark on the off-kilter blues “Never Gonna Cry,”obviously, Fish and her producer chose to go with passion over precision for the final takes.
Fish and crew settle in nicely on a cosmopolitan-country rev up of “Little Baby,” from UK garage supergroup The Bristols with horns adding the counter balance of tension against the swinging country two beat. She does effectively mix her vaunted slide playing with the horns on a rumbling version of Skip James’ “Crow Jane,” getting back to the dirty shouting blues her fans dig.
Curiously the last two tracks are quite good, but are listed as “CD bonus.” First is the great swinging R&B tune from 1964 Ted Turner’s “Somebody’s Always Trying,” which makes great use of the horns before evolving into and extended guitar solo breakdown. Then the energetic take on “I’ll Come Running Over,” which incidentally was first recorded by Lulu in 64 with a young Jimmy Page on guitar, and Samantha does a fine job for the final track.