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Texas singer-songwriter, Sam Baker started out in the music business late in life, but he has been unfazed by the attention, and adulation. His spare and largely unique style of work never ceases to turn heads. Stripped back to the minimal both in way of his pointed lyrics and arrangements Baker’s latest offering Land Of Doubt opens with the moody, less than convivial “Summer Wind”. Thankfully, the next track “Same Kind Of Blue” lifts the tempo as he speaks of a guy joining the army in 1968, it would be the time of the Vietnam War, and how Charlie was fighting Charlie just to stay alive. Baker at his best! Other than Baker, the players involved are Neilson Baker, Will Kimbrough, Dan Mitchell, Eamon McLoughlin and David Henry.
On utilising piano the sound is a sombre one on “Margaret”, this as Baker sings of when Margaret smiles and learns in close, her long black hair covers us both he sings. When Margaret sings the angels whisper he adds. Simple and intriguing and with electric guitar (Kimbrough) and piano deftly wrapped ‘round Baker’s vocals he captivates the attention of the listener. His methodical lyrics and the moods evoked are ever graceful as heard on a piano warmed “Love Is Patient”, and he likewise plods along, slow and measured on “Leave”. With it containing something of a hypnotic air your thoughts become entangled in Baker’s detailed, and less than welcoming, and as ever involved lyrics. “The Feast Of Saint Valentine” possesses greater dynamics, and it is an interesting one as he sings about in the ‘dale’. I wonder where the idea of this song came, and where he was when he wrote it. Touring the UK?
“Moses In The Reeds” is a charismatic tale, his general drawing power doesn’t kick in fully or anywhere like it till he tenders the piece (“Same Kind Of Blue” accepted). Man, it is a knock -out! He isn’t shy to reproduce a little more magic either. For “Say The Right Words” warmed in airy piano, and horns contains a hypnotic feel, if mellow is your poison then this jazz hinted affair will be right up your alley.
Sounding like one of his past treasures “Peace Out” contains much beauty as he does what Baker does best, entice the listener into his web as he dictates the mood. “Where Fallen Angels Dwell” is one of a handful, and easily the longest interlude that ties the ‘production’ together to ensure the players’ work is heard without distraction of voice. On the final track Baker offers up a foreboding and mystical title-track in “Land Of Doubt”. It sounds like something from of a cult-like movie depicting America’s troubled times of the 1930s, during the time of gangsters, exclusive gambling clubs and jazz. Is Land Of Doubt as good as his previous albums Mercy, Pretty World, Cotton or Say Grace? My early answer would be no, then again his albums often take a while to find their true level. I am tempted to say don't be too quick to judge.
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