march 2011

Girls With Guitars: (from left) Samantha Fish, Dani Wilde, Cassie Taylor.

Girls With Guitars, Ascending

By David McGee

girls with guitarsGIRLS WITH GUITARS
Samantha Fish, Cassie Taylor, Dani Wilde
Ruf Records

Ahead of their joint appearance on the 2011 Ruf Records Blues Caravan Tour, American blues women Samantha Fish and Cassie Taylor and the U.K.’s formidable Dani Wilde (profiled in these pages in October 2009) holed up in a Berlin studio with Blues Award winning producer/guitarist Mike Zito and cut an album to mark the occasion. Singers-songwriters-instrumentalists all, each gal contributed three original songs, wrote one together, then bookended these with two ambitious covers. As such, Girls With Guitars boasts a pleasing variety of electrified blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll by a trio of gifted female artists in ascendance.

Taylor, daughter of soul giant Otis Taylor, has appeared on eight of her father’s albums and stood out, partly on the strength of her solid bass playing but especially with her velvety, soulful singing. Her “Satisfy My Soul” is the first of the album’s original tunes, and fits right into the Taylor mold--a taste of ‘70s funk in Wilde’s wah-wah guitar and the jittery rhythm, and over this a soft, sensuous vocal both impassioned and controlled, tantalizingly holding something back even as it turns up the heat when she sings “your cookin’ put me in the mood…” Taylor’s other two contributions aren’t so provocative: in both “Leaving Chicago” and “Move On,” she is, in fact, leaving and moving on, dumping a thoughtless paramour but not before making sure he knows (in “Leaving Chicago”) that she picked up on how what he said and what he did in the service of their love were two different things (“you said that I was pretty/but how pretty was I/you said that I was pretty/but you sat me alone to cry…”) and (in “Move On”) that after three years of broken promises it’s well past time for him to take his act elsewhere. “Leaving Chicago” is all ominous, heartbeat rhythm and crying slide guitar (from Fish), whereas “Move On” is tougher, throbbing and, when Fish cuts loose on lead, howling in contrast to Tayor’s cool, measured communiqués. If Taylor has a weakness it’s in attacking each song from about the same place vocally--there’s not a lot of light between the desire of “Satisfy My Soul” and the disdain of “Move On”; you find yourself wishing she would really pour it on the cad who done her wrong in the latter song, but she seems at an emotional remove from the trying events the lyrics describe. Or maybe she’s simply numbed by what has happened, and that’s the point. Still, a little more fire would have been a beautiful thing.

Blues Caravan Girls With Guitars 2011, a cover of the Stones’s ‘Bitch,’ first cut on the Girls With Guitars album: Cassie Taylor, bass, vocals; Samantha Fish, guitar and vocal; Dani Wilde, guitar and vocal.

Wilde and Fish, though steeped in blues, have a lot of rockin’ pneumonia and boogie woogie flu going for them. When their songs come around, they give us a taste of R&B and hard driving blues-rock both. Wilde’s “Mr. Loving Man” has that slinky Staples Singers rhythm, and Wilde’s tasty, fat-toned noting at the outset might make Pops smile. As she sings of anticipating a night of sensual frolic with her guy, Wilde is supported by the sassy soul background chorus provided by Taylor and Fish, and when she announces, “I’m ready for your lovin’, ready as a woman can be, boy…,” she underpins her yearning with some stinging, electrifying shrieks on guitar. The opposite extreme of Wilde’s intent is articulated immediately thereafter in Fish’s stomping “We Ain’t Gonna Get Out Alive,” a hard rocking missive about extracting oneself from a toxic relationship, energized by Fish’s sustained, screaming wah-wah pyrotechnics and gritty, protesting vocal. The anxiety Fish projects in that song is matched by the unabashed, unrequited lust in her voice and the intensity of the ache in her trebly, moaning guitar lines in her “Come On Home,” with bassist Taylor and the album’s drummer, Jamie Little (a man without a guitar, you might say), providing the track’s potent bottom.

Fish, Wilde and Taylor aren’t on every track together--seven of the 12 feature the girls with guitars; Taylor, Fish and drummer Little cut three tracks sans Wilde (Zito sits in on guitar occasionally as well). One of the album’s most memorable moments features Wilde solo on her “Reason To Stay,” fingerpicking a resophonic guitar on a Delta-style blues from the dark heart of a hard life that has her contemplating suicide but begging for any evidence to convince her of her personal hell abating. No, it doesn’t cut as deep as if it had been done by one of the Delta blues masters that had a closer personal relationship with hell on earth, but Wilde makes it convincing enough by burying herself in the moment until her grunts and moans at the end embody the urgency of her last-gasp effort. The one song credited to all three women writers, the socially conscious thumper “Get Back,” is akin to the like-titled Beatles’ number only in counseling a return to an earlier sensibility--in this case, a proactive attitude with respect to confronting all manner of social, environmental and political ills afflicting the world. Taylor’s bass is the song’s steady thunderclap, Fish sings with breathless intensity and Zito, on guitar, sends up a chilling banshee wail to intensify the urgency of the message.

 ‘We Ain’t Gonna Get Out Alive,’ by Samantha Fish, from the Girls With Guitars album. Samantha Fish, lead vocal, guitar; Cassie Taylor, bass; Dani Wilde, guitar.

The two covers? Try “Jet Airliner,” the Steve Miller hit taken at a more deliberate pace than Miller’s version and, consequently both bluesier and more anguished, with some topical leanings otherwise buried in the original’s propulsive momentum and catchy chorus. Even better, though, is the trio’s red-hot treatment of the Stones’s “Bitch,” which kicks off the album on a fiery note. In this nervy version, the girls with guitars tackle a classic head-on, almost emulating the original arrangement (minus horns), with Wilde riding roughshod over everyone with her rampaging guitar, and each woman contributing a potent vocal before their voices blend in a few bars of triumphant “hey-hey-hey” shouts as the song winds down. It’s a monstrous assault, right on time to be a 2011 summer essential; come to think of it, Girls With Guitars as a whole is right on time to become a seasonal cruising evergreen. As the Stones would say, you gotta move.

Girls With Guitars is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
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