p r e t t y w o r l d







Reaction to pre-release review copies of
Pretty World was so instantaneous when
they went into circulation in Europe that
the CD jumped straight to the No 1 slot
on the Euro Americana Chart, compiled
from returns sent in by almost seventy
music journalists, radio show presenters
and internet sites in the UK, Eire, France,
Italy, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Germany,
Denmark and Sweden, indicating that the
vast majority thought it was the best album
they had received in July. Contributors send
in their top six albums each month to make
up the Chart which acts as an indicator of
who and what is hot.

As a result, Pretty World has been featured
on many radio shows and been praised by
leading presenters such as Bob Harris,
Bryan Burnett, Iain Anderson and Archie
Fisher (all BBC)

Among the responses received were:

“Beginning to make big waves” – Rob
Adams, The Herald

“A super-sensitive, classy album” – Graham
Hassall, Radio Nightingale, UK

“Sam Baker’s Pretty World is a masterpiece
of intense Song-writer craft, as certain as a
rock in a Tornado and upright and juicy as
a Cactus in the desert” – Frank Ipach, www.

“One of the stand-out albums of 2007” –
Karen Miller, The Miller Tells Her Tale, UK

“Sam Baker is a genius” – Freddy Celis,
Rootstime, Belgium

“Brilliant” – Frank Ipach, Germany

“Amazing” – Jacques Spiry, Americana
Music Club, RCF Radio, France.

“A five-star fantastic release from Sam
Baker” – Francois Braeken, Belgium

“Sam Baker’s Pretty World is a great
album” – Leo Kattestaart, Holland

“This is an exceptional album, just brilliant”
– Folk Radio UK

“Sam Baker could soon become a very big
star” – Jackie Blair, Country Music &
Dance magazine (Scotland & Ireland)

Magnificent – one of the great albums of the year.

-Bob Harris

Invite an outsider inside your life

Baker is the kind of outsider figure that Vic
Chesnutt or Johnny Dowd cuts, singular in
style, almost astylistic (if there is such a
term). His vocals are halting, spoken like
he is singing to himself with no mind for
the audience, this is a private dialog, the
songs are short films playing in his head. It
doesn’t exclude the audience though; you
are drawn in to these tightly sketched
dramas by the imagery, the broken vocal
and most importantly for the initial listens –
the sympathetic musical backing. ‘Slots’ is
a prime example, a simple story of an old
woman playing the slots at Reno; the
backing is restrained, bleached almost,
highlighting with squiggles of electric
guitar and some excellent backing vocals
from Britt Savage, the song burning itself
into your mind like you’ve been looking
into the sun for too long. Odessa brilliantly
sketches the desiccation of a life spoilt in
youth, the pedal steel from Lloyd Maines
finding just the right tone and the song
finds poetry in heartbreak and
disappointment – lines like ‘he is going to
die without a trace’ are the kind that Willy
Valutin is lauded for; spare economical,
believable, Faulkner in five minutes. Stories
captured in the dust motes of the
instrumental notes, shafts of light
illuminating the everyday ‘Days’ mixes
Spanish with a elegiac soundtrack, cello
and steel guitar bringing to life a simple
domestic memory.

-David Cowling

These songs have solidity, substance and
authority – everything is done on Baker’s
terms. You enter into his cracked world
and it offers up a rewarding listen.
John Gjaltema

He wears a blue suede cowboy hat. He’s in
a brothel in Juarez with a lady on his lap.
Without anyone hearing it, he sings a song.
He sings waiting around to die. This is how
Sam Baker starts his second cd Pretty
World (self released). The next song is
about a woman who her whole life long tells
everyone she’s an orphan. But really she isn’
t. Truth is, her mother was fed up with a
child who was constantly demanding
attention. So mother dearest took her to an
orphanage for girls. Which is where she
finds herself, the only girl with straight hair
in a house full of curls. Sam Baker
(acoustic guitar, mouth harp) is a gifted
story teller. He only needs a few words to
grab your attention. He makes visualising
easy. The third song is about a woman in
her mobile home outside Reno. She hangs
out in a casino most of the time. In one
hand a glass of gin, in the other coins for
the slot machines. She needs that kind of
action. In yet another song a woman stuffs
her life in boxes. Pictures gap-toothed kids.
Drawings made by same children. Trophies
and an old newspaper showing a wedding
picture and a bunch of valentine cards that
say I love you. Sam Baker still has the
prairie sand on his vocal chords, according
to Peter Pleyte in his review of the debut
cd, Mercy, one of the strongest albums of
this decade. With Pretty World, the Texan
has once again delivered an album for the
yearly lists. Once again he’s accompanied
by Mike Daly (pedal steel, slide), Ron
DeLaVega (bass, cello), Micky Grimm
(drums, percussion), Rick Plant (electric
guitar) and producers Tim Lorsch (violin,
mandolin) and Walt Wilkins (acoustic
guitar, vocals). The guests include Joel
Guzman, Lloyd Maines, Fats Kaplan and
Gurf Morlix. A sublime piece of work
Country Music People
Michael Hingston
5 stars out of 5

“This is an album of fascinating rhythmic
ideas, stunning poetic lyrics and
beautifully-judged arrangements. Sam
Baker comes from the rich tradition of
Texas songwriting and his narrative skills
are in the mould of Guy Clark and Townes
Van Zandt. He deserves to be far more
widely heard” –
Maverick Magazine UK
August 2007

pretty world

A fantastic album that is guaranteed to open
your mind and your heart

*    *    *    *

Every day we witness people behaving like
crazy people – selfishness and greed and rat
race short tempers there for all to see. The art
of looking after number one has reached
epidemic proportions.  And all the time if we
just took a minute to slow down and be a little
more thoughtful, what rich rewards we would
gain.  Does ugly, negative energy have an effect
when it floods the space around us? You bet.
Those who carry a positive charge, then, must
be good to have around, to counter-balance

It is well documented that Sam Baker has had
to learn to be a survivor.  He has learned
forgiveness when most of us would have
emerged bitter and looking for some payback.
Like a kid filled with wonder, he has become an
observer with a keen eye and a heart of gold.
He takes in the idiosyncrasies others wouldn’t
pick up on as he closely studies the characters
he encounters.  He is tuned in and appreciative
of the little things that most of us take for
granted.  In this consumer crazy age we could
all do to take a page out of his book; stop and
smell the flowers.  Baker’s last fine album,
MERCY was extraordinarily moving.
When he first heard it, producer Gurf Morlix
was prompted to describe Baker as the best
songwriter he had heard in years.  While
PRETTY WORLD finds the half-whispered
sandpaper voice still sounding fragile and
vulnerable, the power of the message is as
strong as ever.  Not that the ‘message’ is
necessarily spelled out in black and white so
much as subliminally there in the very energy
that he carries with him.  There is a basic
spirituality running right through the core which
makes it almost therapeutic to listen to someone
who is so well-balanced and at one with himself
and the rest of the world, even its darker
underbelly.  One or two of the stories are set to
sparkle almost hymn-like with the band bringing
an old-time Preservation Hall feel to create just
the right amount of uplifting spirit.

Stephen Foster’s Hard Times Come Again No
More is cleverly used to thread around the main
melody on Odessa, a tale about a poor soul who
made all the money he could ever have wanted
from being oil-rich, but lost the things that
really mattered.  Over-all the production job is
perfect, with arrangements and playing hitting
just the right level of sensitivity, most of the
time, involving little more than bare, albeit very
tasty, essentials.
There is just one break-out with the full band –
Mike Daly, Ron Dela Vega, Mickey Grimm,
Tim Lorsch, Rick Plant, Walt Wilkins and Bill
McDermott – all cranked up and breaking sweat
for Psychic.  He shows us that the healing
process for him is ongoing, Broken Fingers a
reminder that there are scars he’ll carry with
him forever.  Then almost as a thanksgiving
piece, with Days, he lets us know he is grateful
for everything from the smell of baking bread
to the simple light of candles.

His voice trails off…”These days, how

With a little help from the Sam Bakers of this
world, some day, we might hopefully all see it
that way.
– LT, Maverick magazine, UK.
‘Something can happen
in a flash – and there’s
your song’
The Herald
August 02 2007

Sam Baker has a simple philosophy. “You
do what you can with what you’ve got,”
says the Austin, Texas-based, singer-
songwriter whose work is beginning to
make big waves. “And if you start looking
at what you don’t have, well, you’re lost.”
An upbeat character whose conversation is
punctuated at regular intervals with easy
laughter, Baker has reason to count his
blessings. In 1986, while he was visiting
Peru, a terrorist bomb exploded on the
train that was about to take him to the Inca
city of Machu Picchu. The German family
sitting opposite him and with whom he had
been sharing typical tourist chat were all
killed. Baker passed out, came to on the
operating table and felt sure that he
wouldn’t survive either.
His recovery was slow. His left femoral
artery had been severed and his left hand
was, he says, “badly chopped up”.
Following emergency surgery in Peru, he
had to undergo 17 corrective operations
back home in Houston. At first he couldn’t
walk or feed himself and for a long time he
expected every room and every car he sat
in to blow up.
Eventually, he got back to work. Before
the incident he’d been a carpenter and a
rafting guide. But he found a job in a bank
and in his spare time he began writing
short stories to try to make sense of what
had happened to him.
“It’s a surreal experience, of course,
because we’re not living in that kind of
situation all the time,” he says. “One minute
everything is normal and safe and I’m
speaking to this German kid who’s
translating for his mum and dad, who are
sitting so close our knees are almost
touching. Then suddenly this red backpack
in the rack above the mum explodes. It
blows her head off. The kid is pinned to
his seat by shrapnel through his chest and I
can’t breathe with the force of the
explosion. I remember thinking, This is it.
I’m not going to make it’.”
The long-term physical consequences for
Baker were complete deafness in one ear
and only 70% hearing in the other, and
when he got back to playing the guitar, he
had to adapt to playing left-handed.
“I wasn’t exactly a virtuoso before. I’d had
piano lessons as a kid because my mum
played piano and organ in the church, and
there was always music in the house,” he
says. “But I soon gave up music for
baseball and football until I was about 19,
and then I bought a guitar in a pawn shop
and taught myself. That was terrible,
though. Your hands hurt and it sounds
dreadful.” Looking back, the songs he
began writing in his 20s were, he says,
pretty awful, too.
“They were all that kind of I love you and
you don’t love me’ thing and it wasn’t until
the year 2000 that I decided to try to get
serious,” he says.
Writing fiction had given him what he
considers his most valuable tool: the ability
to pare down words and just accept that
sometimes it’s necessary to take something
he’s laboured over for hours, if not days,
and “boot it out the door”.
The songs on his first album, Mercy,
which came out in 2004, were so sparse
that even their titles consist of only one
word. It’s an approach that has worked,
though. Radio 2’s Bob Harris has just
pronounced Baker’s second album, Pretty
World, one of the albums of the year.
“I’m not trying to capture whole lives in
these songs,” says Baker. “They’re just
moments, because you can cover so much
in two or three minutes. Something can
happen, as I know from that train in Peru,
in a flash and you have the basis for a
story right there. I often start out with a lot
of stuff and start peeling away, and if I can
get it so that there’s not one phrase that
annoys me and where every word carries a
lot of implication without sounding false,
then I’m happy.”
With his hearing difficulties, taking his
songs on to the stage hasn’t been easy. But
with a guitar style that he describes as
“three chords and a cloud of dust, but I’m
working on getting more expressive”, he
has persevered. He’s due to play his first
concerts in Scotland later in the year and
says that since live performing is part of
the reality of being a singer-songwriter, he
can’t let physical problems become an
“When it’s quiet and the onstage sound is
good, I’m OK,” he says. “At other times,
it’s like experiencing the Braille equivalent
of music.
I know when it feels right through my
hands and my vocal cords. In the end,
though, if you have something to say, you
have to do it and find ways of working
round whatever comes along. If it doesn’t
all fall apart, that’s great.”

Plato Record Store – The
Hague, NL –

newsletter of 16 August 2007

Sam Baker – Pretty World
It’s probably rather lame, but Sam Baker’s
first cd, Mercy (in stock again soon), hit
us like a bomb. (This debut album
consisted of an intense description of a
very traumatic experience; the train in
which he was travelling became the target
of a terrorist assault by the group the
Shining Path. Not all passengers were this
lucky, but Sam (barely) survived this near
surrealistic incident and went through a
long period of rehabilitation. He used
Mercy to work through this absurd period
of hovering between more dead than alive.
This new album goes further, further into
life. In Pretty World Sam Baker celebrates
life and modestly enjoys the little things,
that otherwise might well have so easily
gone unnoticed. This cd is of the same
sublime quality as its predecessor.
Musically and textually Pretty World offers
the best that Texas has to offer right now’;
cleverly deep about friends, family and
loved ones. No bite-size nuggets but
beautiful story songs about everyday living.
This living is a one-off, it’s short enough,
focus on the essentials and take the rest as
it comes, that, in short, is the message. Be
happy with simplicity.  (Rein v/d Berg).

– To which I, Harry Hoving (record store
owner), want to add that this cd hit me like
a bolt of lightning, it’s awesomely beautiful.
Sylvie Simmons

The songs on this little-known Austinite’s
self-released second album are simple on
the surface, poetry underneath – hence
Townes Van Zandt comparisons.
Despite the six-piece band and various
guests (including Gurf Morlix), this is
understated, affecting music, and even the
songs that don’t quote old gospel standards
(Orphan; Odessa) sound like you’ve always
known them.

copyright 2007

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