Horses and Stars
A Comprehensive Collection of Sam Baker’s Songs, Played Live With No Safety Net.
I can’t remember exactly when I ‘got into’ Sam Baker.
It was a while ago and probably one of his regular shows at the Jumpin’ Hot Club in Newcastle, I don’t think it was via an album.
But now, like so many others I’m a bonafide acolyte of several years standing, poring over his every word and note.
Mrs. Magpie can’t stand him!
Right from the songs on his 2004 debut album Mercy, Sam deliberately sets out to challenge the listener in many ways, not least emotionally, and if you come out the other end unscathed you can count yourself a ‘fan’.
While I can’t think of one, I’m still surprised that is Sam Baker’s first ever Live Album; especially as his concerts are invariably memorable in many, many ways; and that is the case with this raw and exciting performance which finds Baker completely alone on stage in Buffalo NY in July 2018 with just his guitar, harmonica and a wood board to click the timings on as his safety net .
In fairness Baker could have opened the concert with just about any of songs and it would have been ‘nearly perfect’ so the biting lyrics that make up Boxes fits the bill perfectly.
What follows is a comprehensive collection of songs from throughout the songwriter’s relatively short career; and while the studio versions may not fit together quite so appealingly, stripped back to bone and sinew Baker draws you into songs that were written over 10 years apart like Waves and the magnificent Same Kind of Blue sound like he’s somehow plucked them both from the ether earlier in the day and is performing them for the first ever time.
In this particular format Sam Baker occasionally sounds like he must have been a Beat Poet in an earlier life, as he makes no attempt to ‘sing’ in the traditional manner; but that just makes Angel Hair and Broken Fingers even more intensely beautiful and articulate than ever.
With so many great songs to choose from across his career to fit in I can understand why they’ve had to edit out most of the applause and all of the ‘stories behind the songs’ which is a bit of a loss as they are integral to any Sam Baker show ……. would a Double Album have killed you?
Hey ho, that’s only a tiny criticism; as what is here has made choosing virtually impossible as each and every one could and should be my Favourite Track; how can I not choose Mennonite? Come on ……. Odessa? But, it’s a song for our times! Sorry, but I’m going for a song that is an essential inclusion in any Baker gig; Iron from that very first album Mercy and is sadly still as relevent today as it was way back then.
I can’t think of a better way to start your own discovery of Sam Baker and his songs than this album; if you come out the other end unscathed you are going to absolutely love his studio albums!