Sam Busts Me Sneaking an Upstage Shot — 21st Annual Woody Guthrie Festival, 2018

Woodyfest 2018: Sam Baker

Sam Baker: Hope from the Ashes

Hope from the Ashes

Sam Baker [Sidenote: Part twenty-two of our Woodyfest 21 cov­er­age fea­tures Sam Baker.] has told the story of barely sur­viv­ing a train bomb­ing many times. The stark out­line: , the thirty-two-year-old white-water raft­ing guide sits in a train car, head­ing to Machu Picchu. A bomb believed to be the hand­i­work of the Sendero Luminoso (“Shining Path”) guer­ril­las sits in a red back­pack directly over­head. Poorly made, it sends most of its explo­sive force through the roof when it goes off. It still man­ages to kill the tourist fam­ily Baker it sit­ting with as well as four oth­ers, and injures dozens of oth­ers. Baker’s femoral artery is cut, but he doesn’t bleed to death thanks to dumb luck and the heroic efforts of the first-respon­ders. But his jour­ney into dark­ness has just begun, as he slips in and out of con­scious­ness, endur­ing sub­dural and cra­nial bleed­ing, gan­grene, and renal fail­ure. He also loses all hear­ing in one ear and suf­fers severe hear­ing loss in the other. Then there’s the tin­ni­tus — the ring­ing in his ears never stops.

Baker releases the first in a tril­ogy of crit­i­cally acclaimed albums, Mercy. He’s learned to play gui­tar left-handed, hav­ing lost sev­eral fin­ger­tips on his right in the blast. Needless to say, he’s been think­ing about a lot of things in the inter­ven­ing years, and he’s ready to tell the world, or any­one who will lis­ten, about it.

Baker’s music is simul­ta­ne­ously beau­ti­ful and bro­ken, like cracked crockery.

There’s a lot more to the story, and if you don’t know it, stop read­ing right now and go lis­ten to this inter­view with Fresh Air’s Terri Gross. Seriously, stop read­ing and go listen.

Okay, are you back? Good. This writer knew none of what you now know when he was assigned to pho­to­graph Baker at the Crystal Theatre in . All I knew was that I was in the pres­ence of some­thing spe­cial. I’m not the only one. He’s been called […] the most cap­ti­vat­ing song­writer in America. [Sidenote: Skanse, Richard, Lone Star Music, Sam Baker: Say Grace ()]

It was Baker’s ninth time to play Woodyfest; with the exep­tion of , he’s played every fes­ti­val since . Baker was accom­pa­nied by vio­lin­ist Megan Palmer — her­self no stranger to Woodyfest — and bassist Erik Alvar. Don Conoscenti later joined them.

, Baker played the main stage at the Pastures of Plenty. Don Conoscenti once again pro­vided gui­tar and vocals. Joining them on key­board, accor­dion, and vocals was fes­ti­val reg­u­lar Radoslav “Rad” Lorković. Despite the early evening heat, the siz­able crowd enthu­si­as­ti­cally wel­comed Baker — many in the audi­ence knew what to expect, and were eager to wit­ness it.

Gallery: Sam Baker


About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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