Sam Baker Brings Intensely Personal Original Folk Songs to Helsinki Hudson

Sam Baker (photo C Lawrence)

Sam Baker (photo C Lawrence)

(HUDSON, N.Y.) – Austin-based singer-songwriter Sam Baker brings his music of grace born out of tragedy to Club Helsinki Hudson on Thursday, May 12, at 8pm. Red House recording artist artist Carrie Elkin will warm up the crowd for Baker, as well as accompany him during his set.

Baker lives and creates by the personal credo, “Everyone is at the mercy of another one’s dream.” He’s made it the subtitle of several recordings. It’s the theme of many of his songs. And Baker, more than most, has lived the thought quite literally and to its extreme. In 1986, at age 31, he was traveling by train in Peru when a bomb from the terrorist group Shining Path exploded right above him. The little boy he’d been talking to was killed along with half a dozen others, including the boy’s parents. Baker’s own injuries required 18 operations. His mangled left hand was rebuilt; work on his ears left him with a loud ringing that never stops.

Before the event, Baker worked as a bank examiner and a whitewater boatman. While he had dabbled in songwriting before, he came out of the experience with a drive to make art: to paint, write poetry, and to sing. It tooks years for him to be able to do so, and his left hand was left so gnarled that he had to learn to play guitar left-handed.

He put out his first CD, “Mercy,” in 2004, the first in a trilogy of compelling song paintings with sparse instrumentation and poetic delivery. “Mercy” wound up in the hands of former Lucinda Williams guitarist/producer Gurf Morlix, who became Baker’s champion, touring with him and helping to gain Baker airplay. “Mercy” was followed by “Pretty World” in 2007 and “Cotton” in 2009.

Critics began to take notice. NPR got on the Sam Baker bandwagon in due course, as did plenty of Texas newspapers and the Wall Street Journal. Rolling Stone magazine called his 2013 recording, “Say Grace,” one of Top 10 country music albums of the year.

This month Baker releases his first live recording, which will be followed by a full DVD concert video in September. The concert was recorded last November at the oldest theater in Kansas City, The Folly, with special guests Carrie Elkin (guitar and accordion) and Chip Dolan (piano and accordion).

Critic Marc Eisen of the Daily Page aptly described Baker’s music thusly:

“His songs are closely observed narratives of eccentric and marginalized people finding meaning in seemingly defeated lives – almost like Leonard Cohen’s, if Cohen had been a Baptist raised in West Texas.”

Although Baker, who’s now based in Austin, has written directly about his experiences, most of his songs are about other lives: a man finds himself alone after 50 years of marriage; an abandoned woman with two babies drives the interstate; another woman spends her time playing slot machines; the son of a Texas oil baron lives a privileged but ultimately ruined life.

Though he doesn’t deny that his music comes from one moment, on a train in Peru more than 20 years ago, Baker says fundamentally he is no different from anyone else.

“I think in many ways everybody is a survivor, it’s just a little bit more obvious in my case.”
For reservations in The Restaurant or in the club call 518.828.4800.


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