Guitarist Samantha Fish has played local festivals since moving to New Orleans in early 2017. But following the release of two albums last year, she’s spent a lot of time on tour. Listeners who have caught her local appearances may have noticed the difference between her live show and those two albums.
“On albums, I am not going to approach a song like it’s a vehicle for a guitar solo,” she says. “I may have done that in the past. I give a song the treatment it deserves. If the song doesn’t call for a burning guitar solo, I’m not going to put one in.”
But in live shows, blazing solos have earned her a reputation, including in live performances with blues legends such as Buddy Guy. Fish headlines the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival Friday before heading out on tour.
Fish notes that the concepts for her two 2017 albums were different. She recorded Chills & Fever in Detroit, backed by the Detroit Cobras with the addition of some horn players from New Orleans.
“Chills & Fever was concept record from get-go,” Fish says. “(It was recorded with) a rock band with old soul and R&B (influences) and New Orleans horn players. They’re songs from the ’50s and ’60s that weren’t hits at the time, more B-sides, but they had good hooks, and we wanted to remake them. We recorded at the 45 Factory (Recording Studio) with all vintage gear — all analog — so from top-to-bottom it has a ’60s kind of feel.”
Belle of the West is marked by more spare, Mississippi Hill Country blues sounds. She recorded it with Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars at Zebra Ranch studio in Hernando, Mississippi.
“We have Luther Dickinson producing and playing on it,” Fish says, as well as Lightnin’ Malcolm and Jimbo Mathus. “The people recording the album were so bluesy. I was recording melodies I thought up in my head, and this is the way they came out.”
Fish says her career got on track with her 2015 album Wild Heart, which she recorded in Shreveport. In May, she was named Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year by the Blues Foundation, and she won a couple of blues awards last year as well.
“We put out two records and made a lot of noise in the last year,” Fish says. “It’s nice to be recognized, especially by an establishment that so respects pure blues music.”
But Fish has not tried to be a blues purist, taking cues from soul and country singers and playing everything from traditional blues songs to hard rock such as Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.”
The lineup at Crescent City Blues and BBQ includes traditional and contemporary artists. Little Freddie King opens the festival at 5:30 p.m. Friday
Saturday features Stevie Ray Vaughan’s older brother Jimmie Vaughan, Shemekia Copeland, Rev. John Wilkins, Walter “Wolfman” Washington and Mem Shannon & the Membership.
Sunday includes Mississippi slide guitarist Kenny Brown, who played with R.L. Burnside and other blues legends. Don Bryant and Percy Wiggins are backed by the Bo-Keys. Howlin’ Wolf’s longtime pianist Henry Gray performs with Terrance Simien and Li’l Buck Sinegal. Cookie McGee and Keesha Pratt Band also are on the bill.
Barbecue vendors include Blue Oak BBQ, Bratz Y’all!, Central City BBQ, Dirty Dishes, Gonzo’s Smokehouse & BBQ, The Joint, Vaucresson Sausage Company, Walker’s BBQ and others. Some vendors offer vegan and vegetarian dishes. The festival also has an art market and bicycle parking. The free festival is produced by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation.