Well known to blues fans, Samantha Fish looks forward to playing before a new audience at the High Sierra Music Festival.
“I love it — that’s kind of what you hope for,” the 27-year-old slide guitarist-singer-songwriter said. “It’s fun to play the circuit that we play but any opportunity that you get to go find new fans and get introduced to a different audience, that’s what you do. For me, I am really looking forward to that aspect of it.
“I am looking at the lineup and past lineups at this festival and it’s pretty incredible to be a part of something like that. I’m going to do my damnedest.”
A Kansas City native, Fish has played in that city’s famed blues bar Knuckleheads since she was a teenager. Her steady ascent upstream accelerated last year with the release of her third album, “Wild Heart,” which spent multiple weeks in the No. 1 position on Billboard’s blues chart.
While her first two records had a straight-ahead blues bent, “Wild Heart” celebrates Fish’s personal style, which is rock ‘n’ roll, country and visceral North Hill Country rhythm, an influence from producer Luther Dickinson. She says she is finding her voice, which will be on full display June 30 and July 1 at High Sierra.
“I have a festival set that I’ve been working on that might go over better at a festival like this than a blues festival because it’s not traditional blues music, either,” she said. “I just play my music and the songs that I wrote in the best way that I can. I don’t feel the need to change it too much. I think it will fit in well there.”
“Wild Heart” producer Dickinson is involved in numerous projects but his main band remains the North Mississippi Allstars, which includes his brother Cody. The North Mississippi Allstars will play Saturday and Sunday at High Sierra. Fish will be there Thursday and Friday.
“I hope I get to see him out there,” Fish said. “It’s like ships crossing in the night, we never really get to run into each other. The summertime is when you get to see all of your friends at festivals and hopefully get on the same tour once in a while. It is kind of hard. We don’t cross paths generally.”
Fish said a comfortable rapport with Dickinson inspired her best work.
“You loosen up a little bit,” she said. “With ‘Wild Heart,’ I just felt confident coming in. I just felt really good about what we were doing and where we were going. It’s not crazy left-field. It’s true to me. It was a branch out for me and it was a confidence booster. I know what I want and I know what I’m doing and I’m going to keep pushing toward that and finding my own voice.”
When there was a break in their schedules last December, Fish and Dickinson returned to the studio and cut another album. It is complete but not yet released. As with “Wild Heart,” Lightnin’ Malcolm, a recurring member of the North Mississippi Allstars, is a guest artist, along with Jimbo Mathus, perhaps best known for his band the Squirrel Nut Zippers.
“I wrote the new songs myself but I did do a couple of covers with the people I worked with,” she said. “It’s kind of an acoustic album, kind of, but there’s drums and electric guitar and upright bass on it, so how acoustic is that? Jimbo Mathus was there and Lightnin Malcolm and Luther played on it. It was like a North Country Hill session. It turned out really cool.
“I really enjoyed the songwriting process this time. It happened so fast. We went into the studio right after ‘Wild Heart’ came out. We just felt good about everything. It felt right and we had the time. We just went right back in. I haven’t been talking about it too much because I haven’t a dead-set plan or a press release.”
Fish debuts at High Sierra at 1:45 p.m. Thursday, June 30, at Big Meadow. She plays the following day at 11:30 a.m. in the Vaudeville tent. Fans will note that the fiery player has a custom Delaney “Fishacaster” Telecaster guitar and might be playing barefoot.
“The barefoot thing is not like an image deal,” she said. “It’s more like I wear ridiculous shoes that can get very uncomfortable and I kick them off. It’s not really a thing, it’s just I’m bad at being a girl.”
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Dates: June 30-July 3, 2016
Location: Quincy, California
Thursday: Scott Law and Ross James Cosmic Drawl, Xavier Rudd, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead
Friday: Jamestown Revivial, Leftover Salmon, the California Honeydrops, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Thievery Coorportation
Saturday: Elephant Revival, Turkuaz, North Mississippi Allstars, Dr. Dog, Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals
Sunday: Steve Poltz, the Del McCoury Band, Femi Kuti & the Positive Force, Greensky Bluegrass, Tedeschi Trucks Band
Complete grid: http://highsierramusic.com/daily-schedule/