Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sam Baker - Juarez (Song to Himself)

Sam Baker

Sam Baker on MySpace

Sam Baker on Music Road Records

Sam Baker thinks of "Mercy" as a collection of atonal story songs — little movies backed by instrumentation that feels like film scoring. It's a good description.

"Intellectually, I knew his songs were great from the moment I heard them. But on a personal level, I was deeply moved," says Austin musician Walt Wilkins, who co-produced Baker's first two albums. "What Sam writes about — and where he writes from — is completely universal."

After the critical success of "Mercy," Baker thought in longer terms — wanting to release two more albums, similar in tone and instrumentation, that would comprise a reflective trilogy. As "Mercy" was about fate, his newly released "Cotton" is a sophisticated record about forgiveness and forgetting. "Pretty World," released second in line in 2007, is in fact the final installment a message of gratitude.

Baker grew up in Itasca, Texas, a small, rural town of about 1,200, on the prairie between Waco and Fort Worth. “There were 35 people in my high school class—1972. And everybody did everything. Everybody played in the band; I played football, basketball, baseball. You had to.”

He graduated from North Texas State and briefly worked as a bank examiner, but a restless spirit led him to many jobs and eventually, like Phil Ochs, to wander the world.

From his bio: "...In 1986, at age 32, Baker was traveling in Peru when, as he says, “I got in the middle of somebody else’s war.” A terrorist bomb (the Sendero Luminoso or “Shining Path” Maoist group) blew up the train he and some friends were riding on. Several passengers died, including a German boy and his parents, who were sitting next to Baker. Though he nearly bled to death, Sam survived but suffered a constellation of injuries and aftereffects—shrapnel in his leg, renal failure, brain damage, even gangrene.

“Right now, the loudest thing I hear is the ringing in my head,” he says of the Tinnitus, which will never go away. The other obvious reminder of the blast is his left hand, the fingers of which are permanently scrunched and twisted. Fortunately, he has enough dexterity to grip a pick—after re-learning to play guitar left-handed (fretting with the less-injured right hand)—so that he can sing and play some of the most vivid, compelling, truly original songs of any artist working today..."

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Townes Van Zandt

Townes Van Zandt