The blues have forever been a boys’ club. Go down the line, from Robert Johnson to Robert Cray, from Gatemouth Brown to Gary Clark Jr. The men have had most of the fun, albeit blue fun, when it comes to the soundtrack of the American South.
When women sneak in, then, it is always a glorious delight – think Bonnie Raitt, Marcia Ball, Susan Tedeschi – that you wish would repeat more often than it does. Beyond the legendary likes of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Bessie Smith, Sippie Wallace, Ma Rainey and more, a woman when blue is a devastating sound to behold.
In the last decade, one woman blues musician out of Kansas City has made a most dramatic impact, Samantha Fish. Though notably influenced by the late great rock-blues god, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Fish has carved out her own necessary hard-edged niche with recent albums such as Chills & Fever, Belle of the West, 2019’s Kill or Be Kind, and a fever for being on the road – very often hitting Philly – with the latest date being December 19 at World Café Live, on the cusp of having released two Christmas classics in “Run Run Rudolph” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”
“There’s a lot to take in when you consider the regions and styles of blues you’re playing, but no matter where I go, my riffs and solos do start with the blues,” Fish said to me the last time she was in town. “Everything is rooted in that place and then we go away from it, and then we find our way back. We own it.”
Mention to her, the blues being mostly a man’s place with women making their mark on what seems a too infrequent pace, and she’s pragmatic.
“It’s better to preface that question by stating that every industry is male-dominated,” she said. “For my part, I just put my head down and keep working. You get the yeses and the nos. You just ignore the nos and keep moving forward. It is; however, cool to see other females – especially young ones – coming to the shows. I get inspired by the fact that they get inspired by me.”