Samantha Fish never stands still. It’s not just that she always seems to be on tour. It’s that those tours change styles in whatever way her artistic muse takes her. I’ve seen her play with a horn section and with two keyboard players. You never quite know what will be next.
Samantha Fish And Jesse Dayton – The Commoners
Barrowlands Ballroom, Glasgow – 20 September 2023
Words: Ian Sutherland
Photography: Dave Jamieson
This time, she has brought with her Jesse Dayton, a man steeped in the musical lore of his east Texas upbringing and a veteran performer and producer who has worked with a litany of people, from Johnny Cash to Rob Zombie.
Touring to support their recently released Death Wish Blues album collaboration, Ms Fish has, as usual, gone all in. There’s no easy solo stuff with a few new songs thrown in. Tonight, we get a bespoke Fish/Dayton set, especially put together to celebrate their partnership.
The opening in-your-face rendition of the MC5’s Kick Out The Jams is a statement of intent. Subtleties aren’t hard to find in this lineup, but the commitment to get in your face and rock out is there from the start.
As you might expect, songs from Death Wish Blues feature prominently in the set. Deathwish is effortlessly groovy, Riders has an extra drive compared to the album version, and the song features a dual approach to the lead vocal role. No Apology has a gentler vibe that Samantha’s lush, full vocals make the most of.
The duo stretch back to their Stardust Sessions EP with an acoustic take on Townes Van Zandt’s I’ll Be Here In The Morning and also with a full-throated blues boogie run through of Vince Taylor’s Brand New Cadillac, which got the audience dancing.
Bulletproof was a delightful nod to Ms Fish’s solo work with a wonderful cigar box guitar dirty bassy groove, which was just irresistible, as was the superb rendition of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins lament to lost love, I Put A Spell On You. Few people have both the vocal and guitar talents to do this song justice, but Samantha did just that here. Superb stuff from beginning to end.
The final encore of pounding, grooving, twisting guitar and vocal riff jamming through Goin’ Down South just encapsulated everything that was great about this evening.
Dayton’s experience and style, married to a superb band and sprinkled with the magic stardust of Samantha Fish, made for a great evening. No death wish here, just some music to create a lust for more of the same.
Toronto’s The Commoners are an anachronism in a way. A band from the northern reaches of North America soaked in the southern roots rock of their country’s giant neighbour.
They look the full retro part, too, but if music is timeless, then all that really doesn’t matter. A short set full of flair and melody and a commitment to keeping it real, including some old-school harmonies and backing vocals, convinces everyone of that.
Singer Chris Medhurst has just the right kind of voice for the material, melodic with just enough grit to add some weight to the vocal lines. The ability to stretch out into some genuinely impressive strong notes doesn’t hurt.
These guys have been on the road for a while, and it shows. They’ve learned their craft, and that is evidenced in their confident, easygoing style. The set was split between songs from their previous albums and new material for the yet-to-be-recorded follow-up to 2022’s Find A Better Way. There’s no lack of fresh ideas and tuneful, tasteful rock to come, it seems.
This support tour has been making them many new friends, judging by the number of Commoners t-shirts I saw in the hall. I see well-earned headline shows in their future.