12 tracks; 57 minutes
‘There are more fish in the sea’ goes the old saying and to prove it here is Amanda Fish, sister of Samantha, with her first album. The band is Amanda on guitar and vocals, Sean McDonnell (Stone Cutters Union) on guitar, Cole Dillingham on guitar and bass and Kris Schnebelen (Trampled Under Foot, Albert Castiglia) on drums. Guests include Brody Buster on harp on two tracks, Cliff Moore and Derek Tucker on bass on one track each, Coyote Bill on guitar on one track, Matt Peters on guitar on two tracks, Tyson Leslie on organ on one track, Liam Goodrick on piano on two tracks and Jacob Hiser on fiddle on one track. Amanda wrote all the material, much from her own experiences and Sean co-wrote four of the tunes.
Opener “I’mma Make You Love Me” bubbles along with a nice bass line, energetic harp and guitar solos, Amanda’s voice well suited to the uptempo tune which foretells the conquest of her quarry. “Player Blues” explores the life of ‘the other woman’ as the protagonist kisses her lover goodbye and sends him back to his wife. Amanda’s vocal sounds suitably anguished and Sean adds a fine slide solo that suits the mood of the song. The band moves into a rockier phase with “Wait”, the chugging guitars giving a North Mississippi Hill Country feel. Lyrically it’s another ‘down’ song: “If you think it’s going well you can’t be that far down the range, wait, wait, wait, that’ll change.” In complete contrast the piano, fiddle and acoustic guitar that introduce “Guess I’ll Lay Down” take us right into country blues territory, Sean sharing the lead vocals with Amanda who both acquit themselves well here. They repeat the exercise on “Prisoner Of Your Touch”, a definite standout track with a latin feel, the two guitars playing gently against each other over some lovely piano.
After the interlude of those two quieter songs things get a little funkier with “Boots On The Ground” where we learn that Amanda is “not one to be told” with a very nicely done solo from one of the guitarists set against the core riff. “I Don’t Need It” is a blues with moody harp and greasy slide, Amanda singing stridently that she “don’t need that kind of bullshit in my life”. “Hard Walkin’ Blues” follows with a very repetitive riff and refrain, marching drums giving another ‘down’ song a feeling of doom. “Lady Of The Night” is lighter musically with its bass and finger snap intro but lyrically it’s another dark tale of the hooker who “don’t care what I mean to you, ‘cos, honey, your money’s just fine”. Very quiet acoustic guitar opens “Breaking Me Down” with some very high pitched slide adding to the eerie feel of this one where Amanda seems to have found a relationship that she needs to save. However, as the lengthy track develops we get the sense that this relationship may also be doomed: “Hold me close while you wound me once more; in a sea of you I cannot find the shore. Don’t let me go ‘cos every beat of your heart is breaking me down”. Amanda has put her trust in another guy in “Watch It All Burn” in which Sean’s slide solo certainly does burn but, again, the relationship appears doomed. Will we get a more positive slant in the title cut “Down In The Dirt” that closes the album? Not really, Amanda describing some of her problems as she tries to establish herself as an artist: “dirty old man don’t care what I have to sing. He don’t want to hear the songs I have to play. He judges my worth by the length and the width of my skirt, I keep him down in the dirt”. Against a slow rhythm the guitars lay waste to the ground in the middle section of this lengthy track before Amanda returns to complete the song with some very strident vocals, repeating the title many times over more sonic noise from Sean’s guitar – not this reviewer’s favourite cut!
To produce an all original debut album of such personal songs is a brave move which we should commend. Not all the tracks worked but Amanda demonstrates here that she and her band have something a little different to contribute.