"...slowed down Decemberist songs were they wheezed from an accordion by a camp counselor gone cheerfully goth."
-J.K., The North Bay Bohemian
Amber Lee Baker has been on a steady climb, bringing the accordion and her well crafted tuneful songs to the masses. 2008 marked a great year for Baker as she performed at the Cotati Accordion Festival and participated in the 2009 Greater Bay Area Accordion Babe Pin-Up Calendar. She had the distinct honors of performing at the First Annual Great West End & Railroad Square Handcar Regatta and playing accordion in a band for the dance troupe Fou Fou Ha at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. She also had shows with The Alkali Flats, 5 Cent Coffee and the globe-tottering Uni and her Ukelele.
Amber Lee will be hosting a residency at the Orchard Spotlight in March as well as touring the North Coast from San Francisco to Seattle in April of 2009.
Despite centuries of international acclaim, the accordion has been mostly ignored or, most recently, relegated to the status of an alternative, retro instrument in American music. Unencumbered by this trend, songwriter Amber Lee Baker grabbed her accordion and proceeded to make sweet, sweet music with it so that the world can know its true beauty.
Baker was born in Oakland, CA and raised in Sacramento where she began playing music at age eight. She started off on the piano and flute and moved on to Voice and Theater in her teens. Despite her nigh-limitless talent for music, her practical sensibilities lead her to study architecture at UC Berkeley where she received her degree in 1997. Her musical ambitions, however, remained and she sought to find her creative voice in music. While at UCB, she was accepted into the highly respected Artists in Resonance were she lent her bawdy alto voice to pop covers such as Nina Simone’s “Gimme Some,” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
After graduation, Baker relocated to Santa Rosa where she planned on starting a career as an architect. Music, however, beckoned and she eventually bought a few instruments and performed with musicians around town but nothing came of any of it…until that fateful day at the Cotati Accordion Festival in August of 2002. It was there that she first laid hands on the accordion. She was instantly connected to it, purchased it and, after a year of lessons, focused her career on songwriting. Baker started writing her own songs and began performing at open mic nights around the North Bay Area to get her feet wet.
After a few collaborations, she created Amber Lee and The Anomalies with Karen Frindell on banjo, Muir Houghton on bass, Randy Meza on drums and Brian Carlisle on fiddle and mandolin. The group released their debut, Estuaries, in May of 2008.
Though she no longer plays with her former group, she has kept her full band name because her “current solo performance involves a loop pedal, glockenspiel and odd percussion instruments” thereby keeping The Anomalies alive on stage. “Anomalies can be anything,” she adds.