Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Sam Baker - Say Grace Self Released

With each record made, the case for Sam Baker being held in the same esteem as many legendary Texan songwriters strengthens. It has been mooted that the creative spark for many writers in this part of the world is borne out of a necessity to see past the often barren landscape but for Sam much of his inspiration comes from being given a second chance of life after surviving a Peruvian train bombing in 1986. Either way SAY GRACE is a continuation of the highly acclaimed work to come from Sam who has recorded three previous albums on a regular basis since 2004.

Sam Baker is a stimulating and gifted songwriter who was destined to share his thoughts with the world via song. Although ultimately words define his artistry as they perhaps leave the lasting impression, several listens to this album will draw you to the musical arrangements that create an experimental sound within the confines of a relaxed ambience. Also the monologue vocal style of Sam is ingrained with the earthiness shaped by the weathering of life.

A comprehensive list of musicians including Gurf Morlix, Carrie Elkin and Anthony Da Costa have been assembled to assist Sam in the recording of the fourteen tracks which includes a short instrumental introduction to ‘Feast’ and a longer piano and violin led instrumental interlude. These restful parts act as a re-energising segment of the album which, while being thoughtful and astute, is an intense listening experience.
While a majority of the album’s tracks are straight from the pen of Sam Baker, he is not afraid to delve into sources such as a French medieval folk melody for parts of the interlude and ‘The Tattooed Woman’. Also ‘Sweet Hour of Prayer’ has its origins in the first half of the nineteenth century while ‘Go in Peace’, a co-write with Liz Rose is inspired by an eighteenth century hymn.

As is common in much of Texas music, a south of the border sound filters in with the accordion of Joel Guzman featuring in ‘Migrants’, a track that skirts the Mexican border very much in the same mould as Tom Russell. When recalling Texas songwriters, the vocal similarity to James McMurtry surfaces on several occasions as does a slight resemblance to Ray Wylie Hubbard while many of the songs have a deep substance to them very reminiscent of the work of Slaid Cleaves. However despite these name checks, Sam Baker is his own man and the uniqueness lies within his ability to arrange the captivating songs using diverse sounds such as piano, pedal steel, brass and cello.

The omission of a stand out track is not a detrimental verdict on SAY GRACE, just that this album is best enjoyed as an entity to savour its true value. It may take a specific mindset to connect with this album but tuning into its groove will certainly be a worthwhile investment of your valuable listening time.

Click here to see some of Sam's videos

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