14 Songs, 46 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Sam Baker’s world is one of tough breaks and hard-won happiness, lovingly detailed in his music with a poet's touch. The Texas singer/songwriter’s fourth album, Say Grace, is a collection of brilliant miniatures that invite comparisons to John Prine’s folksy working-class narratives and Tom Waits’ jazz-inflected cabaret balladry. A survivor of a terrorist bomb blast in Peru back in the ‘80s, Baker informs his songs with a sense of life’s fragility, as well as gratitude for small everyday miracles. His parched, half-spoken vocal manner adds to the intimacy of tracks like “Road Crew,” “Panhandle Winter," and the title tune. Baker’s sketches of married life can be cranky and droll (“Ditch”) or poignant and tender (“Isn’t Love Great”). There are flashes of social commentary here (especially in “Migrants,” an updating of Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee”), as well as a deeply compassionate spirituality (evident in the closing track, “Go in Peace”). “The Tattooed Woman” and “Button by Button” have a darkly erotic quality. Austere arrangements built around acoustic guitar and piano invite listeners to lean close for their stories of sorrow, resolve, and redemption.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Sam Baker’s world is one of tough breaks and hard-won happiness, lovingly detailed in his music with a poet's touch. The Texas singer/songwriter’s fourth album, Say Grace, is a collection of brilliant miniatures that invite comparisons to John Prine’s folksy working-class narratives and Tom Waits’ jazz-inflected cabaret balladry. A survivor of a terrorist bomb blast in Peru back in the ‘80s, Baker informs his songs with a sense of life’s fragility, as well as gratitude for small everyday miracles. His parched, half-spoken vocal manner adds to the intimacy of tracks like “Road Crew,” “Panhandle Winter," and the title tune. Baker’s sketches of married life can be cranky and droll (“Ditch”) or poignant and tender (“Isn’t Love Great”). There are flashes of social commentary here (especially in “Migrants,” an updating of Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee”), as well as a deeply compassionate spirituality (evident in the closing track, “Go in Peace”). “The Tattooed Woman” and “Button by Button” have a darkly erotic quality. Austere arrangements built around acoustic guitar and piano invite listeners to lean close for their stories of sorrow, resolve, and redemption.

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