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Two years on from 2017's 'Belle of the West', a year that saw Samantha Fish unleash two new albums, we finally have her follow-up full-length platter, 'Kill or Be Kind'. And it’s another great sounding record but, if I'm being entirely honest, 'Kill or Be Kind' is a step down from 'Belle of the West'. That second 2017 release was an album I had the utmost adulation for, and one that I had no hesitation in awarding a maximum score. Fish's latest, however, while not as flawlessly masterful as its predecessor, remains another strong release and still stirs my emotions in various affecting ways. Generally, though, it's not as profoundly moving as 'Belle...'. I hasten to add that we're talking about the difference between great (this one) and fucking great (the previous), so my observations are in no small way indicative of any sense of dislike for Fish's new music. Rather, my emotional connection to it lacks the inherence and immediacy I had with the material on 'Belle...'. Here, I've found myself engaging with most of the songs in more a state of appealing admiration than one of naturally affective prevalence.

While generally rootsy in constitution, Fish's music, once again, seems to eschew genre in favour of the songwriting itself. It sounds as if compositions have been brought to life with stylistic traits, rather than the contrary. As such, with songwriting at the forefront, rather than genre affiliation, Fish flourishes once again with some very nicely composed/arranged/executed music. So, despite blues, rock, folk, country, rockabilly, R&B and soul flavours to varying degrees of prominence within the songs, it never feels like the genre elements are being forced; rather, they’ve been naturally integrated within the compositions themselves. And, of course, the album is loaded with Fish’s laid-back, soulfully sultry voice, which is as mesmeric and alluring as ever.

Produced by Scott Billington at Memphis’ Royal Studios, ‘Kill or Be Kind’ is a mightily fine sounding album across all genre-hopping, stylistically fused moments. And the album has a fantastic mix, too - everything’s well-balanced with some very nice tonal dynamics, through which Fish’s vocals shine through, as does her casual fretboard manner. There are zero flashy displays of guitar histrionics to be heard; instead, it’s all about colouring the songs with the right feeling. And there’s a whole ton of “feel” in Fish’s playing. In fact, the instrumentations have been fleshed out in various interesting ways, from backing vocalists, to synths, to brass infusions, and all the while preserving the essence of the compositions, rather than dominating them. Look elsewhere for virtuosity. Fish is all about cool, poignant vibes. And while ‘Kill or Be Kind’ lacks the emotional immediacy of material on ‘Belle of the West’ (at least in my own listening experience), this talented lady has crafted another fine set of tunes.
Rounder Records
Review by Mark Holmes
20th Sept 2019
1) Bulletproof (Tangle Eye Mix)
2) Kill or Be Kind
3) Love Letters; 4) Watch It Die
5) Try Not to Fall in Love with You
6) Fair-weather
7) Love Your Lies
8) Dream Girl
9) She Don't Live Around Here
10) Dirty; 11) You Got It Bad
12) Bulletproof (Radio Edit)
13) Watch it Die (Radio Edit)
"...with songwriting at the forefront, rather than genre affiliation, Fish flourishes once again with some very nicely composed/arranged/executed music."