wendell berry

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

from How to Be a Poet
(to remind myself)

-Wendell Berry

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ann patchett on art

The tricky thing about being a writer, or about being any kind of artist, is that in addition to making art you also have to make a living. My short stories and novels have always filled my life with meaning, but, at least in the first decade of my career, they were no more capable of supporting me than my dog was. But part of what I love about both novels and dogs is that they are so beautifully oblivious to economic concerns. We serve them, and in return they thrive. It isn’t their responsibility to figure out where the rent is coming from.

-Ann Patchett

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schopenhauer

Therefore music is by no means like the other arts, namely a copy of the Ideas, but a copy of the will itself, the objectivity of which are the Ideas. For this reason the effect of music is so very much more powerful and penetrating than is that of the other arts, for these others speak only of the shadow, but music of the essence.

-Arthur Schopenhauer

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Epitaph on a Tyrant

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

January 1939

-W. H. Auden

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a poem begins…

A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a love-sickness. It is a reaching out toward expression, an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found the word.

-Robert Frost

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each day a separate life

Some there are that torment themselves afresh with the memory of what is past; others, again, afflict themselves with the apprehension of evils to come; and very ridiculously both – for the one does not now concern us, and the other not yet… One should count each day a separate life.

-Seneca

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full of sound and fury

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
— To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)

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snow live from brighton

there is snow upon the ocean

snow upon the land

talk about forgiveness

help me understand

why i hold on tight

i do not let go

i walk these streets frozen in snow

snow

live from brighton

chip dolan on piano

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to everything…

to everything

there is a season

turn

all night rain fell

even through this morning

slow and steady

gray thunder

muffled

above the soaked

rain valley

 this year’s leaves

those last ones

still perched

like  parchment songbirds

 on the tips of November trees

 look to the ground

-what a year it has been!

wind storm sunshine 

celebration

glory!

all that remains is

this last falling

this final drift

this gentle return

to lie upon good dark earth

beneath

comforting snow

to everything

there is a season

turn

 

Written after an off day in the Ozarks.  It is the first poem I have written in a while.  The rain fell all night.  The beautifully colored house is warm. I sit at a kitchen table in a corner.   Gray light comes softly through the floating glass of four single mullion windows.

Sam

the Ozark Mountains

November 17, 2015

9:36 AM

 

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rending the hardest monuments of pride…

I am done with great things and big plans, great institutions and big success. I am for those tiny, invisible, loving, human forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, which, if given time, will rend the hardest monuments of pride.

-William James

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the mysterious…

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. Those to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, are as good as dead: their eyes are closed.

-Albert Einstein

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and hope and history rhyme.

Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured…
History says, don’t hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
 
-Seamus Heaney

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There is no one but us.

There is no one but us. There is no one to send, not a clean hand or a pure heart on the face of the earth or in the earth—only us… unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and uninvolved. But there is no one but us. There has never been.

-Annie Dillard

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one vital spirit…

One vital spirit is distributed among the animals, and one rational spirit is allotted to humankind. There is also one earth for all creatures that live on the earth and share a single light by which they see and a single atmosphere by which they breathe.

-Marcus Aurelius

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…no time for playing around.

This is no time for playing around. You have been retained as counsel for the unhappy. You have promised to bring help to the shipwrecked, the imprisoned, the sick, the needy, to those whose heads are under the poised axe. Where are you directing your attention? What are you doing?

-Lucius Seneca

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You need not leave your room.

You need not leave your room. Remain seated at your table and listen. You need not even listen; simply wait. You need not even wait; just be quiet, still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

-Franz Kafka

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at certain hours…

It is good, at certain hours of the day and night, to look closely at the world of objects at rest. Wheels that have crossed long, dusty distances with their mineral and vegetable burdens, sacks from the coal bins, barrels, and baskets, handles and hafts for the carpenter’s tool chest. From them flow the contacts of humans with the earth, like a text for all troubled lyricists. The used surfaces of things, the wear that the hands give to things, the air, tragic at times, pathetic at others, of such things – all lend a curious attractiveness to the reality of the world that should not be underprized. In them one sees the confused impurity of the human condition, the massing of things, the use and disuse of substance, footprints and fingerprints, the abiding presence of the human engulfing all artifacts, inside and out.

-Pablo Neruda

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they light the way…

There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind.

-Hannah Senesh

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…while the heat…

Write while the heat is in you.  The writer who postpones the recording of his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with.  He cannot inflame the minds of his audience.

-Henry David Thoreau

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a daring adventure

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men and women as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

-Helen Keller

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asimov

To me it seems to be important to believe people to be good even if they tend to be bad, because your own joy and happiness in life is increased that way, and the pleasures of the belief outweigh the occasional disappointments. To be a cynic about people works just the other way around and makes you incapable about enjoying the good things.
It’s insulting to imply that only a system of rewards and punishments can keep you a decent human being. Isn’t it conceivable a person wants to be a decent human being because that way he feels better?

-Isaac Asimov

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cool piece by mike warren- the beautiful folly theater in kc with mary gauthier

http://www.pitch.com/FastPitch/archives/2014/09/21/sam-baker-and-mary-gauthier-gave-an-intimate-performance-at-the-folly-last-night
Sam Baker and Mary Gauthier gave an intimate performance at the Folly last night
Posted By Mike Warren on Sun, Sep 21, 2014 at 11:19 AM
Sam Baker and Mary Gauthier
Folly Theater, Kansas City, Missouri
Saturday, September 20, 2014

“You know, this is the opposite of takeoff,” Sam Baker declared last night, early in the show at the Folly, as he and co-headliner Mary Gauthier began trading songs in a songwriter’s circle of two. They’re both known for brittle, spare and heartbreaking tunes, and Baker was almost apologetic as he introduced one of his relatively rare happy ones, “Isn’t Love Great.” He paused, looking for a precise analogy, grinned, and declared: “It’s a submarine. We’re going to start it in dry dock, and then go down in the trenches.”

His description of last night’s setlist turned out to be accurate, but it definitely didn’t apply to the conversation that he and Gauthier would have in between. As they set up on a spare stage – two chairs, two guitars, two microphones and two monitors – Baker and Gauthier established clear ground rules. The setlist would be announced as they went, and Baker emphasized that they wouldn’t join in on in each other’s songs.

“There’s a reason for that,” he explained patiently. “We don’t know how.”

Gauthier laughed and added: “We both came to this late in life.”

Maybe, but each lived enough life before they began songwriting – Baker at 50, Gauthier at 40 – for a dozen careers between them. From Baker’s opening tune, “Baseball,” to Gauthier’s last, “Mercy Now,” the show was a collection of the short stories they tell in song, held together with stories about writing the songs and a pile of mutual admiration. For other shows, the banter might have seemed like too much, but for this one, it was almost inseparable from the music.

As Baker launched into a joke about a wronged wife and a pharmacist (according to Gauthier, for no less than the seventh night in a row), the two seemed like a brother and a sister, even though they’ve only toured together for a week or so. She was the sister who finds his stories goofy (a tale of a drastically misinterpreted TidyCat commercial, for instance), yet who simultaneously eggs him on. He was the brother who depends on both.

That rapport carried the show, and the almost impossibly rapt and reverent crowd settled in for what felt like the largest living room show ever. The sound was absolutely crystalline, and the audience was entirely invested in its performers. Baker’s highlights included “Broken Fingers,” a tribute to a German boy who died in the same Peruvian train bombing that cost him the back of his hand, and “Ditch,” a newish story of a man who lays pipe and his affectionately labeled “crazy ass wife,” one of a handful of Baker’s less impressionistic recent portraits of the real people he loves.

“I’m going to play another happy one,” Baker said before he launched into “Pretty World,” seeming almost surprised.

Gauthier responded drily: “I’m glad you have happy songs. I wish I did.”

She had a point. Gauthier’s lightest moment was her first, the song “Between the Daylight and the Dark,” and she squeezed some gallows humor from the otherwise mournful “I Drink.” Still, those who know Gauthier’s work know that if there’s a celebration to be had, it’s the celebration of surviving the bleakest of times. One of the most heartrending moments in the show was her song “Iraq,” co-written with veteran Army Mechanic Brandy Davidson as part of the Songwriting With:Soldiers program. The song tells the tale of an engine mechanic fighting off the dangerous and devious advances not of an opposing enemy, but of the single-minded men in her own ranks.

The only possible complaint was that there wasn’t a single song from Gauthier’s latest album, Trouble and Love. The show was also a little on the short side – not that it was unfulfilling, just that the combined powers of Baker and Gauthier could have kept the audience there for another two hours. Still, when the last line from the hymn “Go In Peace,” the evening’s only duet (and a traditional Baker closer), echoed through the theater, urging the crowd “safely to arrive at home,” it was clear that most of the audience had spent the last 90 minutes already there.

Leftovers: This show, part of the Folly’s Cyprus Avenue series, marked the 35th anniversary of Bill Shapiro’s radio show. In what has to be one of the most jaggedly sad and lovely dedications of all time, Baker sang his song “Waves,” a portrait of a man who has lost his of wife of 50 years, to Shapiro and his wife in honor of their 30th anniversary. In the world of Baker and Gauthier, it made perfect, joyful sense.
Setlist:
Baseball (Sam Baker)
Between the Daylight and the Dark (Mary Gauthier)
Isn’t Love Great (SB)
I Drink (MG)
Waves (SB)
Last of the Hobo Kings (MG)
Say Grace (SB)
Cigarette Machine (MB—Fred Eaglesmith cover)
Ditch (SB)
Iraq (MG)
Pretty World (SB)
Christmas in Paradise (MG)
Broken Fingers (SB)
Mercy Now (MG)
—-
Go in Peace (SB and MG)

http://www.kansascity.com/entertainment/ent-columns-blogs/back-to-rockville/article2194775.html
Back to Rockville

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kansas city star cool piece by timothy finn

http://www.kansascity.com/entertainment/ent-columns-blogs/back-to-rockville/article2194775.html

Back to Rockville

The music blog of The Kansas City Star

Sam Baker, Mary Gauthier hold Kansas City crowd spellbound with their songwriting

By TIMOTHY FINN

The Kansas City Star

09/21/2014 6:03 PM

09/21/2014 8:41 PM

 

Songwriting is a craft and an art, and among the elite songwriters, it is also a gift.

Saturday night at the Folly Theater, Sam Baker and Mary Gauthier, two gifted songwriters, enchanted a crowd of more than 800 with more 100 minutes of humor, poignancy, sorrow and melancholy.

The format was stripped-down and simple. Each strummed an acoustic guitar and played the occasional blues harp as songs were swapped back and forth. Baker started the evening with “Baseball,” one of his resonant portraits of Americana: “Another baseball field, another popfly / Another bunch of boys, another blue sky.”

Gauthier followed that with one she co-wrote with Fred Eaglesmith, “Between the Daylight and the Dark,” a song about losing “the love of a wayward girl who left you with a second-place smile and a broken heart.”

 

Baker’s style resembles a few songwriting legends, like John Prine and Guy Clark, especially in songs like “Isn’t Love Grand,” a whimsical and heartwarming tale of two people who love each other despite their defects: “There is a beautiful woman she walks with a limp / He calls her his princess, calls her his gimp / She calls him her fat man, calls him her pimp.”

 

Gauthier, too, can be at once poetic and profound, as in the autobiographical “I Drink,” which addresses her years of addictions: “Fish swim, birds fly / Lovers leave, by and by / Old men sit and think / I drink.”

She can write a good narrative, too, as in “Iraq,” about a woman who is an Army mechanic, and “Last of the Hobo Kings,” about Steam Train Maury,” who was a true hobo, not just a bum: “Bums just drink and wander round / Tramps dream and wander, too / But a hobo was a pioneer who preferred to work for food.”

 

Things got especially emotional when Baker told the story behind “Broken Fingers”: He was riding a train in Peru in 1986 when a bomb hidden in a suitcase exploded, killing a family of three, including a young boy Baker was talking to moments before the explosion. Baker suffered critical injuries and severe hearing loss. He endured a lot of “self-pity and rage,” Baker said, but when he thinks of the boy who died, he acknowledges his own fortune and blessings: “Forget his face? Of course I don’t / Etched like a crystal vase.”

 

For the encore, each delivered a valediction. Gauthier sang “Mercy Now,” a plea for compassion: “I love life, and life itself could use some mercy now.” Baker closed the evening with “Go in Peace,” a lovely hymn that dovetailed nicely with Gauthier’s: “Let us go into the dark / Not afraid, not alone / Let us hope by some good pleasure / Safely to arrive at home.”

It was the perfect closer. As it had been throughout the evening, the room was again filled with grace and the enchantments of two virtuoso songwriters.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com. Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.

 

SET LIST

Baseball; Between the Daylight and the Dark; Isn’t Love Great; I Drink; Waves; Last of the Hobo Kings; Say Grace; Cigarette Machine; Ditch; Iraq; Pretty World; Christmas in Paradise; Broken Fingers; Mercy Now; Go in Peace.

 

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/entertainment/ent-columns-blogs/back-to-rockville/article2194775.html#storylink=cpy

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solzhenitsyn

It was granted me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer, and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. And it was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.

Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person…

– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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and all the Bees

It’s all I have to bring today –
This, and my heart beside –
This, and my heart, and all the fields –
And all the meadows wide –
Be sure you count – should I forget
Some one the sum could tell –
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

-Emily Dickinson

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at certain hours

It is good, at certain hours of the day and night, to look closely at the world of objects at rest. Wheels that have crossed long, dusty distances with their mineral and vegetable burdens, sacks from the coal bins, barrels, and baskets, handles and hafts for the carpenter’s tool chest. From them flow the contacts of men and women with the earth, like a text for all troubled lyricists. The used surfaces of things, the wear that the hands give to things, the air, tragic at times, pathetic at others, of such things—all lend a curious attractiveness to the reality of the world that should not be under-prized.

-Pablo Neruda

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catch the trade winds

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

-Mark Twain

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press for say grace

Press for say grace

1. Rolling Stone Top 10 Country Albums for 2013 (#5 position)http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/10-best-country-albums-of-2013-20131210/sam-baker-say-grace-19691231

2. Rolling Stone Top 100 Songs of 2013 (#68 “Ditch”)http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/100-best-songs-of-2013-20131204/sam-baker-ditch-19691231

3. American Songwriters Top 50 Songs of 2013 (“Say Grace” # 10)http://www.americansongwriter.com/2013/12/top-50-songs/5/

4. CMT Edge 10 Americana Albums Worth Hearinghttp://www.cmtedge.com/2013/12/20/10-americana-albums-worth-hearing-in-2013/

5. Euro Americana Chart – Top 25 Albums of the Year, #2 positionhttp://www.euroamericanachart.eu/index.php/layout/yearlist-2013

6. No Depression – Best of 2013 blogs- Jela Webb #1, Hal Bogerd #3, Skot Nelson #6http://www.nodepression.com/profiles/blogs/a-list-of-lists-our-featured-bloggers-favorite-albums-of-2013-1

7. Altcountry.nl Best Albums of 2013 (#2) and Reader’s Choice (#4)

http://www.altcountry.nl/blog/2013/12/het-beste-van-2013-jg/

http://www.altcountry.nl/blog/2013/12/de-top-15-van-2013-en-de-lijstjes/

8. Folk DJ List – Top 100 Artists of the Year

9. JC’s Best O’ 2013 — Songwriter http://www.countryrootsmusic.com/3rdcm/#best

10. Midnight Special – Rich Warren’s Favorites of 2013http://www.midnightspecial.org/favorites2013.htm

11. John Platt of WFUV New Yorkhttps://www.facebook.com/WFUVPage/posts/10152081305468279

12. Himes Best Albums of 2013 — Best New Non-Jazz Albums (#6 position)http://members.jazzjournalists.org/2013Best?mode=PostView&bmi=1456273

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a piece from texas music – summer 2013

 TEXAS MUSIC MAGAZINE – SUMMER 2013 –

RESOLUTION: “What does it mean to carry our past with us?” asks Baker, who vows never to be defeated or embittered. “There are always flowers for those who wish to see them.”

Sweeping Up the Hearts
About to release his fourth album, Say Grace, Sam Baker, who survived a terrorist attack, reflects on Boston and West, Texas.

BY GEOFFREY HIMES

SAM BAKER WAS HAVING a rough week when we spoke in mid-April. On Monday afternoon, two bombs had exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and that Wednesday, a burning fertilizer plant in West, Texas, exploded, killing 14 and injuring almost 200. We were all saddened by these events, but few of us have experienced such a fatal explosion first-hand. Baker has.

In 1986, he was sitting on a train in Cuzco, Peru, ready to depart for Machu Picchu, when the red backpack on the luggage rack overhead exploded. The young German boy sitting next to Baker and both of the boy’s parents were instantly killed, as were five other people in one of the first urban attacks by the Shining Path terrorists. Baker had a severed artery, a deflated lung, renal failure, a shattered left hand, a deafened left ear and, eventually, gangrene. He survived only because he was airlifted to a Houston hospital.

So April’s events stirred up painful memo- ries. They also helped clarify why he got serious about music once he was out of the hospital. On all four of his remarkable albums, including this summer’s Say Grace, Baker has pursued a consistent quest: How do you honestly examine this world of ours — including all its horrors and tedium — and still find cause for affirmation, maybe even celebration? The April horrors in Massachusetts and Texas made that quest seem more urgent than ever. More than anything, though, those explosions made Baker angry.

“I’m sick of kids getting blown up for what- ever reason — malicious reasons, tactical reasons, strategic reasons, hearts and minds, whatever,” Baker said. “There is no rational justification for killing someone else’s kids — not the kid sitting next to me on the train, not the kid in Boston this week who got killed. Nobody ever forgets a kid getting killed; it turns into this blowback for generation after generation. That kid sitting next to me on the train, pretty blue eyes, off to see South America with his parents, didn’t do anything, then boom, he’s gone, and his parents, too, in a particularly gruesome way.”

Having vented, Baker took a deep breath, collected himself and returned to the theme of his musical quest. He refused to soft-pedal the awfulness of the week’s violence — or any week’s violence — but he also refused to let it defeat and embitter him.

“What helps me these days,” he continues, “is being grateful for what I’ve got and not being bitter about what I lost in South America. Yes, I’ve lost mobility and a lot of my hearing, but I still have a lot left. Let me remember to be aware of the things that are here and to say that. This record begins with, ‘Say grace,’ and ends with ‘Go in peace, go in kindness.’ Maybe I can do that; maybe I can go in kindness and be thankful.”

The new album opens with the title track, one of Baker’s bare-bones narratives that saun- ters along atop a pretty guitar figure as his dry, reportorial voice reveals essential details. In just 35 words, Baker’s first stanza supplies a surprisingly sharp portrait of the song’s protagonist: “She was almost out of high school when she left home / Got a job in an office, she answered the phone / Her boss was a creep, he wouldn’t leave her alone / She had to go.”

Without changing his diction or tone of voice, Baker slyly shifts from journalist to novelist and crawls inside the woman’s head. Sitting in her terry-cloth robe in a wrought-iron chair, she looks in the mirror, sees her mother’s face and hears her mother’s voice: “You know better, baby, say grace / Don’t even try, you can’t take your brother’s place.” The mother’s words may not be a bomb going off in a public place, but they are a weapon nonetheless, one that still echoes in her daughter’s head, one that spoils that one word, “grace,” the daughter so desperately needs. It’s an astonishing song, for so little seems to be happening on the surface — neither musically nor verbally — and yet so much is going on just below.

“What does it mean to carry our past with us?” Baker asks. “That’s what the woman in that song is wrestling with. She’s one of those people whose lives are so busy there’s not a lot of time for reflection or observation on how the world flows around us, because they have to be so focused on making the car payment and paying the rent. You try to tell their stories. It can be helpful to them that someone else has a job to provide some clarity for them to help them figure stuff out.”

That, Baker says, is the role of the writer and artist. “You and I and the people who do get the time to look around … that’s a pretty valuable gift — to make things transparent, to see the tree and how it fits in with the forest.”

On “Ditch,” Baker tells the story of a construction worker laying sewer pipes by the side of the highway. This is a happier, bouncier song, even funny in places. Assuming the first-person role of the ditch digger, Baker sings that his co- workers may be stoned and his boss may be an asshole, but the narrator’s OK; he’s got weekly pay and a baby on the way. His wife may be liv- ing in outer space (she’s convinced she’s Taylor Swift’s long-lost twin), but he’s happy in his hole in the ground. In “Road Crew,” Baker imagines some other hard-hat workers making an unexpected leap from practical details to the universal. One moment they’re surrounded by billboards, brake shops and flashing signs; the next they’re “sweeping up the hearts, putting love away.”

“I love where I’m talking about billboards and beer cans, and all of a sudden you leap into hearts,” Baker says. “It’s like when [poet] Gabriel Garcia Marquez is talking about people sitting around eating and suddenly one of them elevates into the sky. The details are a grounding thing; they’re part of the landscape. My life is not the British countryside or the Appalachian Trail; my life is streets where utility wires hang over our heads and stores where you buy auto parts. Taco stands. That’s where love lives.”

The album boasts other uplifting moments, but things turn bleak again on “Migrants,” a sequel of sorts to Woody Guthrie’s “Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos).” In Baker’s story, the migrant farm workers don’t die flying out of California; they die sneaking into Arizona. With Joel Guzman playing Tex-Mex accordion, Baker uses his flintiest voice to sing, “The water ran out one by one / Ay, mijitos / They looked like dried leaves scattered in the sun.”

“That was definitely a Woody-inspired deal,” Baker acknowledges. “He wrote ‘Deportees’ when he heard a radio guy say, ‘Yeah, this plane went down, but don’t worry — they were just deportees.’ I was working in the Midwest and reading the local paper; it said they were migrants. It really bothered me. There is so much celebrity press and so much entertainment press, and here was this really tragic thing that got 12 lines. I’m not an advocate for anything, but let’s not let people die in the desert because we need them to pluck our chickens.”

Say Grace is Baker’s first album in four years. Because so much of his writing process is whit- tling away unnecessary notes and words, he keeps playing the songs to see if he can stand to listen to the same phrases over and over again. If he can’t, out they go. Things are further slowed by his hearing loss; it just takes him longer to make sonic decisions.

Despite this slow pace — or, perhaps, because of it — Baker has released four albums that stand up to repeated scrutiny: 2004’s Mercy, 2007’s Pretty World, 2009’s Cotton and this year’s Say Grace. But all of Baker’s work is concerned with staring into the darkness and trying to glimpse a glimmer of hope. It’s not easy, he says.

“What is forgiveness?” he asks. “How do you forgive people? Can you forgive the people who try to blow you up? I’m thinking of the people in Texas who were watching TV this week and got blown through the next wall. How do you find beauty in a world where such horrible things happen?”

In March, when Baker played the Homeguard Festival in Kansas City, he was approached after the show by some guys who’d been soldiers in Afghanistan. They’d heard “Steel” from Baker’s debut album, a song where he addresses his experience on the Peruvian train. The veterans just wanted to talk to someone else who’d been through an experience like that.

“I didn’t say a lot,” Baker recalls. “There’s not a lot to say. ‘It’s fast; it’s awful,’” I said, “‘and it takes a long time to get your footing.’ After it happened, I moved a lot: different houses, different apartments, obsessive. When I was in an airport, when I noticed things like a trash can or a car that looked like it had been parked too long, I tried to put something concrete between me and that thing. I can’t pretend that never happened.

“Turning a blind eye to terrible things is not only naïve, it’s false. But also you can’t turn a blind eye to wonderful things. You can’t cherry- pick life and say it’s all good or it’s all bad. What you can say is it’s a beautiful knife’s edge. I know there are people struggling all over the world, but there are always glimmers of hope. It’s spring here in Texas, and the plants are exploding with life. I talk to people all the time whose lives are not chaotic. We can take a few moments to enjoy these beautiful days. As [poet] Wendell Berry once wrote, ‘Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.’”

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button by button lyrics

say grace
lace

zip un zip snap un snap hook un hook strap un strap button by button all of her clothes fall down

candlelight to canvas red wine to red lips one bare shoulder white silk to cream hips button by button
all of her clothes fall down

all fall down
all fall down
all fall down
all fall down button by button
all of her clothes fall down

lord show me how you hide in the perfume of this saint show me how you hide
in the brushes and the paint show me how you hide your daughter
from your son
show me how you hide the things that you want done

button by button
all her her clothes fall down

all fall down
all fall down button by button
all of her clothes fall down

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panhandle winter lyrics

field and daylight moon
field and daylight moon

p a n h a n d l e wi n t e r

it’s is a panhandle winter
i hear it may snow
blow a sky full of dirt
back to old mexico
a fresh pane of glass
and one dearborn stove
are not enough to keep out the cold

it’s cold on the prairie
when a blue northern runs
down the canadian past a frail winter sun with a wind like a combine
in a high plains wheat field
comes down the prairie
like blue tempered steel

the morning sun
falls soft on the bed
on the king james bible
that lies at the head
all this is passing is all she said all this is passing is all that she said

its cold on the prairie
when a blue northern runs
down the canadian past a frail winter sun with a wind like a combine
in a high plains wheat field
comes down the prairie
like blue tempered steel

a windbreak a windbreak
i want no more cold heartache like a horse turn my back to the wind a warm heart a warm house
not a wind burned prairie farm house good whiskey
the smile of a friend

it’s a panhandle winter
I hear it may snow
blow a sky full of dirt
back to old mexico
a fresh pane of glass
one dearborn stove
are not enough to keep out the cold

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cool piece from Lone Star Music

cool piece from Lone Star Music

Sam Baker might be the most captivating songwriter in America. You’ll probably never catch yourself singing one of his songs in the shower, because his melodies generally tend to be as bare-bones servicable as the raspy scratch of his singing; but by God, you listen to what he has to say, hanging on for every line like a baby bird at feeding time. Sometimes his words come out haltingly, one by one; others tumble out of his mouth in spurts of nursery rhyme cadence (“copper penny for your thoughts/copper jacket full of lead/they wanted little Jimmy Cagney dead …”) By the time he sing-speaks them all, he’s burned a black-and-white image or sometimes even a whole movie in your mind that lingers long after each song ends. Some, like “Juarez” and “Odessa” from 2007’s Pretty World, will haunt you for life. Baker’s fourth album, Say Grace, adds several more masterpieces to that gallery, begining with the title track’s poignant portrait of a woman weighing the ghosts of her past against the lonely onset of advancing age. In “Migrants,” he tells of 14 men who cross the border only to succumb to the elements of the brutal Sonora desert. “Ay mijitos/they looked like dried leaves/scattered in the sun,” Baker sings with a sadness underscored by Joel Guzman’s keening accordion. “They got 12 lines in a midwestern paper/on the pages with the ads for shoes.” But there’s true grace here, too, from the sweetly touching but unmawkish “Isn’t Love Great” to the surprise sense of humor leavening the blue-collar angst of “Ditch”: “My wife God bless her and for what it’s worth/thinks she and Taylor Swift/were twins at birth/separated at birth/Earth to wife/wife to earth!” — RICHARD SKANSE

 

http://www.lonestarmusic.com/magazine/mag_html/July13/lone_star_music_reviews.html#sam

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feast lyrics

Sam Baker 2012-115
photo of charcoal and some other stuff- ink? pastel? I don’t remember. on paper

f e a s t

what rough beast?

there are mega blessings

a golden fleece

a golden fleece

close thine eyes on that rough beast

dues are paid

palms are greased

your neighbors in the neighborhood

sufficiently policed

feast

feast

close thine eyes on

that rough beast

i had a dream last night

a woman came to my bed

her hair was made out of light

she said wake up deacon

the time is right

wake up deacon

it’s our wedding night

i had a dream

i had a dream

i had a dream

i had a dream

what rough beast?

there are mega blessings

a golden fleece

a golden fleece

close thine eyes on that rough beast

fe feast

close thine eyes

on that rough beast

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green haired woman

green haired woman
green haired woman. photo of oil on canvas

Toronto

It is a lovely rainy day. Fog flows around the buildings down town. On my way to the Mariposa Folk Festival this weekend. Then to NYC for two shows then to Okemah for the Woody Guthrie Festival. The rain is crazy beautiful.  The coffee is great.

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isn’t love great

 

There is a beautiful woman

she walks with a limp

he calls her is princess

calls her his gimp

she calls him her fat man

calls him her pimp

she teaches first graders got a beautiful limp

 isn’t love great

isn’t love grand

she touches his face

she holds his hand

isn’t love great

isn’t love grand

 for years they’ve been married

not one day of trouble

got two happy boys 

good luck

daily double

love to dance with each other

say they live in a bubble

go to church twice a week

not one day of trouble

 isn’t love great

isn’t love grand

she touches his face

she holds his hand

isn’t love great

isn’t love grand

 shout hallelujah 

all you sisters and you brothers

she wears fishnet

he wears leather

when the boys are at his mothers

 isn’t love great

isn’t love grand

she touches his face

she holds his hand

isn’t love great

isn’t love grand

IMG_0062bccc

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white heat lyrics

IMG_7233_Snapseed 

that’s what you get

you dirty copper

little jimmy cagney said

there are thirteen rounds in the hopper

then the cops made jimmy dead

copper penny for your thoughts

copper jacket full of lead

they wanted little jimmy cagney dead

thats what you get you dirty copper

you get thirteen rounds in the hopper

mama mama how he yelled

told them coppers he could fly 

from the gasoline tank when he got nailed

yelling you dirty rats

it is one big lie

the crowd yelled back

fly jimmy fly

all the excitement everybody got high

mama mama how he yelled from the gasoline tank

when he got nailed

where have you gone my love

now that i have found my way

where have you gone my love

now that I am old and gray

bells are ringing 

choirs are singing 

step out in the field 

if you are looking for trouble

man you can find it 

but come out swinging 

out in the field the farmers burning the stubble

out in the field people are living in the rubble

but only come out

if you are looking for trouble

bells are ringing

choirs are singing

you get what you want

but come out swinging 

where have you gone my love

now that i have found my way

where have you gone my love

now that I am old and gray

thats what you

little jimmy cagney said

then the cops made jimmy dead

copper penny for your thoughts

copper jacket full of lead

they wanted little jimmy cagney dead

that’s what you get 

you dirty copper 

you get 13 rounds in the hopper

mama mama how he yelled

told them coppers 

you go to hell

 where have you gone my love

now that i have found my way

where have you gone my love

now that I am old and gray

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migrants lyrics

the desert
the desert

it is not that far
the coyote said walk north one day
across la cabeza prieta
keep walking to interstate eight
they walked that day
the next
the next
the water ran out
one by one
they looked like dried leaves
scattered in the sun

oh dear ones
we are lost

it is so far away
from the low lands of veracruz
to the desert north of sonora
where they strung out in ones and twos
they got twelve lines in a midwestern paper
on the pages with the ads for shoes
fourteen men got lost in the desert
they were migrants they got
twelve lines of news

pull together my brothers
the devil is passing
pull together my brothers
we are burning

they got twelve lines in a midwestern paper
on the pages with the ads for shoes
fourteen men
got lost in the desert
they were migrants
they got twelve lines of news

oh dear ones
we are lost

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road crew lyrics

Big Bend
Big Bend

sunday morning
road crew in the rain
bill boards
beer cans
the street cleaners block my lane
they are sweeping up the hearts
that is what they say
they are sweeping up the hearts
putting love away

flag man
so go slow
or double fines
radio talk show
flashing signs
for brake shops
batteries
new and rebuilt parts
guys in hard hats
sweeping up the hearts

they are sweeping up the hearts
that is what they say
they are sweeping up the hearts
putting love away

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help to the oklahoma food bank

I sent a note to a friend in Norman Oklahoma asking how to help.  He said one way is to donate to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.  It is easy to do.  With a text it takes like 30 seconds.

This is the link to the food bank.

http://www.regionalfoodbank.org/newsroom/5-20-13/RegionalFoodBankofOklahomaRespondstoTornadoDisaster

To make a tax-deductible donation to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, visit www.regionalfoodbank.org or call 405.604.7111. You can also text FOOD to 32333 to give $10 to relief efforts*.

*A one-time donation of $10.00 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. All donations must be authorized by the account holder. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. User must be age 18 or older or have parental permission to participate. By texting YES, the user agrees to the terms and conditions. Service is available on most carriers. Message a& Data Rates May Apply. Donations are collected for the benefit of the Regional Food Bank by the Mobile Giving foundation and subject to the terms found at www.hmgf.org/t. You can unsubscribe at any time by texting STOP to short code32333. Text HELP to 32333 for help. 

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the tattooed woman

 

tuplipsbw
tulips

 

the tattooed woman

sleeps in my bed

the ink is dry

the dogs are fed

the moon is safe

her face is red

the tattooed woman

sleeps in my bed

her hair is black

her skin is white

she’s pulled the sheets around her tight

i wish i had the right

to comfort her as a husband might

rain is coming that’s how it feels

rain is coming that’s how it feels

now i lay me down to sleep

the lord out wandering with his sheep

oh so many souls to keep

now i lay me down to sleep

rain is coming that’s how it feels 

rain is coming that’s how it feels

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say grace lyrics

say grace
lace
 

say grace 

she was almost out of high school

 when she left home

 got a job in an office

 she answered the phone

 her boss was a creep he wouldn’t leave her alone

 she had to go 

middle of that mess she met a fine young man

 they rolled into houston in a chevrolet van

 louisiana tags a beautiful band of gold

they carried each other so long

but they drifted apart never really went wrong

they just married too young both moved along

c’iest la vi

she starts every day

 just fine

then she hears that voice

same place same time

her mother is in the mirror 

with the same old lines to say 

she says you know better say grace

don’t even try

you can’t take your brother’s place

don’t even try

don’t give me that face any more

so where does the time go

now there is gray in her hair

she sits at her dressing table

in a wrought iron chair

wears a terry cloth robe

with a tear

when she is alone

the tv says war in the holy land

she looks at the wrinkles on the

back of her hand

rubs her fingers where she wore a wedding band

she looks away

precious savior

she remembers a hymn

it is a hymn

she never liked

she goes to the gym

goes to work

dinner with a friend

falls asleep

with the tv on

you know better

say grace

don’t even try

you cant take your brother’s place

don’t even try

don’t give me that face anymore

say grace

you know how

all these years

even now

stand up

mother take a bow

cause you still

make her cry

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willie nelson auditions for the hobbit

My hero Willie Nelson.   His cousin lived across the street from us when i was a kid.  He drove up one time in a beautiful silver Mercedes.  All the kids stood out in the yard slackmouthed staring.  It was like he came from a different planet- not Abbott, Texas.

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