Sam Baker: “Change”

Photo by C. Lawrence

This week Song of the Day will be counting down some of our favorite overlooked Studio 1A live sessions from 2013.

Texan singer-songwriter Sam Baker is a storyteller. Whether they’re about a mennonite from Mexico workin’ in Weslaco  or a woman going through a box of keepsakes, through his spare songs, and particular dry, talk-sing, he can weave tales with empathy and honesty. He’s spoken of in the same sentence as Texas greats like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, or James McMurtry. But it’s been a long road for Baker himself. He didn’t start making records until 2004, at age 50. Before that, in 1986, a terrorist bomb in Peru ripped through the train he was traveling on. The blast nearly killed him, and he lost most of his hearing and badly damaged his left arm, which forced him to relearn how to play the guitar.

After years of surgeries and rehabilitation physical and spiritual, Baker released his first record Mercy in 2004. It was the first in a trio of critically-acclaimed albums that also includes 2007’s Pretty World, and 2009’s Cotton. Earlier this year, Baker issued his fourth record, Say Grace, and it’s not an understatement to say that it’s one of the best records of the year (if you ask my humble opinion). It made Rolling Stone’s top-five for best country album, and one of the tracks, “Ditch,” made it onto their top 100 songs of the year. We were lucky enough to have Sam Baker in Studio 1A back in September. He shared three tunes, including “Change,” from Mercy. A gospel piano line (played by Chip Dolan) and some lovely vocals from Carrie Elkin back Baker as he spins a wry yarn with a simple message: time and people may move on, but, despite the title, some things never change. It’s a gem of a song from one of Texas’s best singer-storytellers.

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