Samantha Fish Credit: Alysse Gafkjen

Over the past decade, Missouri singer-songwriter and guitarist Samantha Fish has become one of the country’s leading young electric blues performers. Her 2017 album, Belle of the West (Ruf), produced by Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, leavens her blues sound with country and roots rock—an exciting departure from her usual mix of urban blues styles, and one of the best albums of her career. This year’s Kill or Be Kind (Rounder) is a bit of a retrenchment, sticking to Fish’s bread and butter: hard electric blues and bluesy retro soul. That’s disappointing for those of us who were hoping for further exploration, but on the upside, the album’s opening track and first single, “Bulletproof,” is an absolute monster of blues rock, all slide swagger and filthy feedback. Fish sweetens and softens her singing on the verses to build tension before letting it rip with big, distorted hooky choruses and guitars solos that could sear the shaggy hair off Billy Gibbons’s face. Other highlights are the rockabilly-tinged “Love Your Lies” and the Stax-soul-flavored title track, where Fish makes the lines “Back before I was a homewrecker / I was a goody-good-good girl” smolder with regret and bitterness. Fish hasn’t quite made an album worthy of her best moments, but those moments are pretty wonderful—and she’s a powerhouse live.   v