Sam Baker | mercy

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mercy

by Sam Baker

everyone is at the mercy of another one's dream
Genre: Folk: Modern Folk
Release Date: 

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1. Waves
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5:59 $0.99
2. Truale
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3:51 $0.99
3. Baseball
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3:10 $0.99
4. Thursday
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4:31 $0.99
5. Change
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2:54 $0.99
6. Pony
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3:46 $0.99
7. Kitchen
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3:42 $0.99
8. Iron
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4:29 $0.99
9. Prelude
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0:30 $0.99
10. Steel
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4:05 $0.99
11. Angels
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3:11 $0.99
12. Mercy
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8:05 $0.99
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ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
"Mercy" by Sam Baker
A Review by Tony Peyser


I recently heard about somebody who was riding on a train in Peru when it exploded, the result of a bomb planted by radicals in the Shining Path movement. Many people died and this guy nearly did, too. Remarkably, he's gotten on with his life. Think about that kind of determination and courage the next time you find yourself whining about something that really isn't worth whining about.
Anyway, Sam Baker is a singer-songwriter of the Austin variety. The title of his debut album, Mercy, is just one word and so are each of his song titles. Baker --- who's also penned short stories --- chooses his words very carefully. The album was so highly recommended that I didn't even listen to it right way; I just read the lyrics. Baker is a vivid storyteller both in terms of what he chooses to write about and the brevity with which he brings his stories to life. Among the people who populate his songs are a husband who's lost his wife of fifty years, a wayward daughter heading home, a single mom overwhelmed in a drive-through window and other folks with hard lives looking for soft places to land.
When I finally played Baker's album, its power made me stop whatever else I was doing. With a country twang and folksy, folk persona, it took a bead on my emotions and hit a bull's-eye. At times, Baker's voice seems more ragged than you'd expect from his picture on the cover the CD booklet. Baker's lyrics sometimes are run roughshod by his vocals. I also noticed a photo of him playing guitar left-handed, which certainly is a novelty. Those quirks notwithstanding, this is a record with a wounded beauty and an aching spirit. And I absolutely love it.
In a couple of songs, Baker manages gently to float ghosts in and out of them. In "Kitchen," the effect is stunning. Baker ends the song filled with fleeting images of small-town life and then has four short lines to remind all of us of the subtext of our lives. His heart breaks and his voice does, too: "Skinny boys with rifles/Flying off to war/Skinny boys with rifles/Fighting door to door." I recently saw a show on The History Channel about famous war photographs over the decades. Baker's description of those young kids in Iraq is as vibrant to me as that napalmed girl in Vietnam and the flag going up over Iwo Jima.
Baker's compositions are melancholy but also upbeat. "Change" has a funky front porch shine to it as he describes another (or perhaps the same) town's main street. And those boys were still on Baker's mind: "Those same little girls/Went to work in those stores/Those same little boys went away to wars/But when they came home/All the jobs had gone away/Back to those places where they fought so far away." It's like watching Norman Rockwell's America being outsourced. The songs on Mercy hold on to those lost dreams and Baker's torn between moving on and squeezing so tight that maybe they'll come back. He gets terrific support throughout with a trio of winning female back-up singers: Britt Savage (who I reviewed on a strong album by Randy Wayne Sitzler,) Joy Lynn White (another favorite of mine) and Jessi Colter (an outlaw country legend and the longtime wife of the much-missed Waylon Jennings.)
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention track 10 on Baker's album. "Steel" depicts a guy riding on a train in Machu Pichu that blows up. You see, that person I mentioned earlier was none other than Baker himself. He's had many surgeries since then. The reason some of Baker's vocals are raspy is because that blast affected his hearing, He plays guitar left-handed because of other injuries he sustained.
A near-death event like this is clearly life-altering. It explains why Baker's songs have such depth and resonance. In "Angels," the chorus is especially haunting: "Call a truce/Call a war/Everyone is a bastard/Everyone is a whore/Everyone is a saint/Everyone is redeemed/Everyone is at the mercy of another one's dream." This is big, poetic stuff but Baker serves it up not on a gold platter but more like a cafeteria tray, which everyone can relate to.
I don't think it's premature to think of Baker as being part of the hallowed singer-songwriter tradition blazed by the likes of Townes Van Zant, Guy Clark and John Prine. It's like there was a storm, a couple of huge oaks fell down at your local park and you suddenly saw another big tree behind them in full bloom. In a music world riddled with deadwood, Sam Baker is a redwood.


Reviews


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Toby Wood

A real surprise!
This CD is a real surprise. I heard a track - Iron - on the Bob Harris radio programme here in England and went straight to the CDBaby website where I listened to snippets of all the tracks. I was immediately convinced and ordered it there and then. The CD arrived 5 days later, costing a damn sight less than it would have done in England (and that includes postage!) Sam's music is gritty, realistic, sparse and thoughtful. The songs are reminiscent of Butch Hancock and Townes Van Zandt with a touch of Lyle Lovett-esque cello thrown in for good measure. Each song is a short story in itself yet the whole album hangs together beautifully. When I listen I close my eyes and imagine the black and white Texas of 'The Last Picture Show'. I'm luck enough to own 900 CDs and this is now firmly in my Top Ten - no question. Buy it or miss out for ever!

Stephen Cook

A stunning and moving 'country' album with a real difference.
I purchased this album having heard the track Iron on the Bob Harris Show (BBC Radio 2 - UK). The words were fantastic, the duet engaging and the vocals from Sam Baker sounded both like nothing I'd heard before and a little like John Prine. I needed to find it.

When the CD arrives you are always uncertain what you will hear. Was the track you'd heard a one-off, or even worse still, is it not as good as you remember it being? Within seconds of the album starting all my doubts had disappeared.

Waves is perhaps the most moving song (and performance)I have heard for a very long time. It is already up there in my Top Ten favourite 'Songs with a Difference'.

And so the album continues - carefully chosen words painting pictures of personal grief and universal probelms. Love gone wrong, family life (gone wrong), drink, war and pain.

Just when the mood needs lightening a little, ...things change on track 5... and the tempo is upped with Change; but don't be fooled, the beat may be up but the song's not upbeat - boys still go away to war only to come home and find their jobs outsourced.

The whole album is concerned with loss and yet ends on a note of hope. The penultimate track Angels, is a hymn to a force that can ease suffering and heal pain if only you trust others. But this hope or trust comes at some risk as we are reminded at the end of each chorus that "Everyone is at the mercy of another one's dream".

The final track (Mercy) delivers the mercy promised at the start in the title of the album and is a soft instrumental of guitar and cello that leaves you feeling ready to face the world again, even after the journey Sam Baker has taken you on in the previous 40 minutes or so.

Sam Baker's voice may need some getting used to, but his lyrics and observations are like poetry. For me, the voice just adds to the work. If you enjoy Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt or Steve Earle then give this CD a listen. It will move you; without a doubt.

alex macneil

brill
fantastic i dont say that about many albums

Lisa

great, fantastic, wonderful and DIFFRENT
Heard a snippit on Radio 2 'UK' thought it sounded a lot like Shane Mcgowan from the Pogues gone folky. Bought the CD and totally loved it, though the song i heard on the radio (something about Sweet Chariot) was not on this album and i cannot find another.
100% recommend this work of art.

justin holmes


i have got this album Mercy and Pretty World and they are great. I really like Baseball this is a really cool track . The lead track on Pretty World is also an excellent track. And given the fact that Sam is a left hander proves that its good!.

les, in the UK.

EXCELLENT SONGWRITER
My daughter played me a downloaded track. I was so impressed that I tracked down this site to order the CD. First class lyrics, which is my thing.Subtle backing vocals, feel I'm in the bar with him.No downside to this CD, every track is a winner.Mercy,mercy me, Sam Baker.

Andy Pringle

Couldn't agree with Toby more - a really enjoyable album.
I too heard the track on Bob Harris and couldn't agree with Toby more. Not much to add but if he wanted to, I'm sure with a bit of exposure, this album could see Sam Baker become massive. It would be great for some more people to be exposed to these songs. A really enjoyable album.

Dennis Bailey

Heard it ,bought it,love it,now spreading the word.
Heard it ,bought it,love it,now spreading the word.Sam Baker deserves more exposure,and I look forward to a second album.

Lorraine R (UK)

Just wow!
I had the priviledge of seeing Sam in Summer 2006 at Fred Eaglesmith's Southern picnic and Sam's music just blew me away. Mercy is one of the most beautiful CDs I have heard in ages and everyone I have lent it to agrees! I am sooooo looking forward to getting my copy of the new one in the next few weeks.

Please find a way of getting to the UK, Sam, I think the Brits will love you!

Louise

smashing...
Sam never fails to amaze me with his lyrics and style and beauty. Such a touching album with amazing emotions. Beautiful and a must!
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