Tuesday, 13 February 2018

GIG REVIEW: Sam Baker - Kitchen Garden, Kings Heath, Birmingham. Monday 12th February 2018

Sam Baker is an extraordinary artist, funnelling his art down down the most acute of channels. In response to a unique style, a degree of adjustment is desirable to tune into its wavelength. While occasional crackles still flicker from time to time, those with the dial in the right place have a pure hypnotic experience delivered. An air of duality creates from the mellow relaxing rhythmic tones of electric guitar coupled with incisive percussion, whilst being aligned to a mental alertness required to fathom the lyrical content. All this cast under the spell of a slightly impish persona using the hidden crevices of dark Americana to spill out a poetic soul. It is not uncommon for a Texan troubadour to sprinkle a golden drop of song writing dust on the intimate confines of the Kitchen Garden and few in this sold out audience would deny Sam Baker being the latest artist to accomplish this feet.

For this latest UK tour, Mike Meadows joined on assorted percussion to make it a duo presentation. The musical upgrade on a previously seen solo show was a stark improvement. The opportunity to spar with somebody other than members of the audience was too good to miss for Sam, who appeared to sink more into a Southern caricature as the show meandered through its 90+ minute single set. Shades of Truman Capote came across as the audience was regular toyed with and this is only just the start of the literature analogies. Mixing articulate content with a poetic beat adorns song after song, heavily featuring numbers that formed the latest album LAND OF DOUBT.

The most poignant moment of any Sam Baker show is always likely to be the moment when he gently strums along to the story of the 1986 Peruvian terror incident. Blessings are counted, perhaps to the extent that reconstruction led to a creative release. One that never ceases to find new outlets such as adding the canvas to the notebook and the re-adjusted guitar playing. By the time this moment arrives, the enthralled audience are besotted by each beat and word leading to a grateful finale sealed with the signature sign off ‘Go in Peace’.

Memorable moments ensued this evening through songs such as ‘Moses in the Reeds’, ‘Sweet Kind of Blue’, ‘Ditch’ and ‘Isn’t That Great’. Maybe the ultimate memorable moment though was the inner smugness of meeting the mesmeric waves head on and understanding every sinew of what is transmitted from this idiosyncratic performer. Even when the virtual set list strayed into the territory of Jon Stewart and Paul Simon, forgiveness that they effectively elbowed out a Sam Baker composition was offered.

Maybe Sam Baker is ripened more for the Americana aficionado bred on Kerouac, Tom Russell and the dark underbelly of a continent than bashing out a few chords on the banjo. A certain mindset, unafraid from working the cogs, is a useful ally to ensure the riches are suitably mined. An air of artistic charisma soaks deep into the music of Sam Baker and the live version so effortlessly presented in Birmingham this evening etched another notch on the legendary post of a Texan troubadour sparked by the wisdom of the deeply excavated song.  

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