Right from her big US breakthrough in 2011, Samantha Fish has been one of those artists who could often be relied upon for a quality product. Carving out a niche in dirty blues rock on her earlier albums, the guitarist/vocalist often sounds more interesting than the plagiaristic Joe Bonamassa and more charismatic than many blues performers. Moving forward, she branched out into R&B (2017’s ‘Chills & Fever’ and 2019’s ‘Kill Or Be Kind’) and even a bit of country (2017’s Belle of The West’). At her very best, her work sounds like a homage to the bluesiest side Bonnie Raitt colliding with early ZZ Top – a fiery concoction that allows for some brilliantly impassioned vocals and hefty slide playing. Even at her worst, occasionally phoning in blues rockers with more balls than brains, her sense of presence and a strong vocal style is enough to maintain interest.

This live release from 2022 will certainly please fans who’ve not been quite so enamoured with Sam’s softer side and musical curveballs in the few years leading up to its release. A seven song set recorded without an audience, the prosaically titled ‘Live’ presents seven tracks from ‘Kill Or Be Kind’ in a very natural state. The lack of overdubs allows the material to breathe, and the one-take recordings more than show Fish’s vocal talents at their absolute sharpest.

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HEATHEN HEARTS – Heathen Hearts EP

Hailing from Finland, Heathen Hearts play an absolutely crushing brand of hardcore. On this debut EP, their sound takes the guts of bands like H2O and Agnostic Front and applies a huge metallic crunch. The result is a sound that’s sometimes blisteringly fast but always oppressively heavy – a musical sledgehammer where the riff is king, and the guttural roars clear everything in their path. It’s the kind of introduction that’s both unsubtle and brilliant.

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For those who were paying attention to the UK indie rock/punk underground during those periods of pandemic lockdown during 2020 and ’21, the name Das Kapitans will be a familiar one. As the world slowly ground to a halt, the band went into recording overdrive by releasing twelve albums’ worth of material at a rate that would’ve made Guided By Voices man Robert Pollard seem lazy.

Their 2022 release ‘Debut’, then, isn’t a debut in the true sense; nor does it mean that the band consider their dozen lo-fi Bandcamp releases in anyway unofficial or unimportant. The title comes from the fact that it’s actually the first Das Kapitans disc to be recorded “properly”, with far more care – and with all of the band members present at all times. This gives the album an extra level of professionalism, but those who’ve already taken the time to explore the band’s rapidly assembled catalogue and fallen for its ragged and noisy charms needn’t worry about this being too polished. Yes, in many ways, the material sounds better, but it never really loses any of the band’s rough and ready spirit, and the expected big riffs are still at the forefront of the best material.

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In February 2020, Al Pacinos Sister (no punctuation) released ‘Trained In Karate’, a no-frills, no holds barred hardcore punk EP that valued speed and noise over almost everything else. The result was like experiencing a raw garage band tapping into the earliest wares from the Dischord label. Obviously, what the songs lacked in finesse they made up for with sheer balls, leaving behind the kind of lightning fast punky blast that seemed almost timeless.

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MONTROSE – I Got The Fire: The Complete Recordings 1973-76

1973 was a fantastic year for rock music. Pink Floyd released a world beater with ‘Dark Side of The Moon’; Led Zeppelin offered ‘Houses of The Holy’ – one of their most varied and adventurous works to date – and Queen introduced the world to their mix of pomp and pop with a confident, if flawed, first album. With other superb albums by Paul McCartney & Wings (‘Band On The Run’ and ‘Red Rose Speedway’), two great works from Elton (‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and ‘Don’t Shoot Me’), two from future megastar Bruce Springsteen, the Stones’ branching out on ‘Goat’s Head Soup’, and Yes disappearing up their collective backsides on ‘Tales of Topographic Oceans’, the year offered the discerning music fan something interesting at every turn.

Somewhere among the noise, US hard rockers Montrose made their breakthrough. Their self-titled debut album is as powerful as the Van Halen debut from ’77, with riff after riff on a filler free, half hour slab of plastic. As raucous as New York Dolls, and as groove laden as the best Johnny & Edgar Winter tomes, decades on, it remains a near perfect example of American hard rock. In the UK, neither Montrose or their debut album get talked about as often as they should be, but ‘I’ve Got The Fire’, a 6CD box set from Cherry Red certainly aims to change that by shining a massive light upon an all too short time at the top, bringing together pretty much everything the band recorded during a very prolific four years.

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