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.