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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About Sam Baker

With his raspy, almost spoken word vocal style and literate, poignant, and carefully observed songs that grapple with the beauties, complexities, and little tragedies of this world, Sam Baker has much in common with other Texan songwriters like Robert Earl Keen, James McMurtry, and Guy Clark. A near death experience in 1986 drastically changed the trajectory of his life, from bank examiner and whitewater river guide to working musician, though the road to the latter persuasion would be a long and arduous one. Since his acclaimed debut in 2004, Baker has released a string of well-received albums that evoke the austere melodicism of Townes Van Zandt and the heart and humor of John Prine's narrative style.

Baker grew up in Itasca, Texas, a prairie town southwest of Dallas and Fort Worth on Interstate 35. He was exposed to a wide array of music as a child (his mother was a local church organist), not the least of which was his father's collection of country-blues artists. The defining moment in Baker's life came in 1986 when he was traveling on a train to visit Machu Picchu in Peru. A terrorist bomb exploded on the train and Baker was gravely injured, losing most of his hearing and suffering serious injuries to his left arm. He had 18 corrective surgeries over the next decade at hospitals in San Antonio and Houston, and the consequent physical, emotional, and spiritual journey he experienced helped him form his quiet and passionate view of the world. Baker had to completely relearn how to play the guitar with his mangled left hand, and singing was extremely difficult for him because of his severe hearing loss, but he overcame these obstacles to develop his uniquely hushed and quietly powerful performance style. Baker self-released three critically acclaimed albums, 2004's Mercy, 2007's Pretty World, and 2009's Cotton, all of which make up what he calls his "Mercy Trilogy." 2013's Say Grace was cited by Rolling Stone as one of the Top Ten country LPs of the year, and in 2017, he issued his fifth studio long-player Land of Doubt.

HOMETOWN
Itasca, TX
BORN
1954

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