"Sam Baker’s songs are self-contained stories, told with perfect economy; there isn’t a superfluous word as he tells us about the kind of people we’re all surrounded by, whether we know it or not; the single mothers, the alcoholics, the drug addicts, the widows and the guilt-ridden all doing their best to make it through another day. It’s the life of a small Texas town told in twelve small but perfectly-formed chapters.
The delivery as a live performance matches up perfectly with the stark subject matter. Sam Baker relates the tales in a sung-spoken style that has hints of Tom Waits and an interesting minimalist picked electric guitar style (more about that later), plus a wooden block to tap out the tempo with a foot. It works perfectly because the stark arrangement focuses all the attention on the power of Sam’s writing and the stories of despair and injustice but, ultimately, hope."
- Music Riot
“Not that they aren’t ripe for covering as with different arrangements that would be a whole different world. But here in Baker’s world they are what they are, gentle reflections on life and how nature intercepts that passage. The songs are not unlike his impressive paintings, some of which grace the cover. He is also a photographer and his music and artwork are very much one facet of a creative life that funds Baker forging his own distinctive path.”
– Stephen Rapid (Lonesome Highway)
“How do you capture the essence of such a unique and powerful performer on a recording? A live album is often the answer but these do not always work. But, fear not Sam Baker has managed it.
The characters in the stories inhabit what could be considered the underworld or real world. Not likely to be on the radar of our political leaders. Lives challenged by poverty and its resulting problems drugs, illegal immigration, you name it Sam writes about it. The song titles suggest the topics are the mundane, ‘Boxes’, ‘Thursday’, ‘Snow’, ‘Iron’. Furthermore, the mostly single words point to the style, basic just the essential words. To carry this style off you need to be good, very good. So many songwriters use too many words. Study the style of Dylan, Cohen, Mary Gauthier and you discover it is the ability to hone down to the bare essentials to make every word count that is the real skill.
The recording is basically just Sam singing, or in some cases almost speaking the songs, with the minimum of guitar backing. The vocal dominates and every single word is clear, each song a picture, a slice of life captured. In other hands, this could be a deeply depressing listen and live experience but there is joy and hope in these performances."
– John McCart (Folk and Tumble)
"‘Horses and Stars’ is a sparse album even by Sam Baker standards with just his guitar, the occasional harmonica lick and a piece of wood on the floor that he could tap his boot on. It’s this pared-down production that helps bring both an immediacy and intimacy to the record allowing the listener to be completely drawn into the stories and to relate fully to the subjects being sung about.
Those familiar with Sam Baker’s work will recognise many of the songs from his back catalogue and for those just discovering him for the first time, ‘Horses and Stars’ will act as a great introduction to this talented storyteller."
- Jim Finnie (Americana - UK)
“An album so intimate and sparse you can almost hear the sweat drip and the blood pulsing as he draws you into his stories, it may not introduce him to new audiences but the converted will have much to celebrate.”
– Mike Davies (Folk Radio UK)
“With few words, he tells the stories of simple people. In addition to Johnny Cash, John Prine, Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clarke are influences, Baker joins the line of musicians who say a lot with few words. There is never euphoria, there is always hope even when it is difficult to reach.
Alcoholism, racism, addictions and loneliness. The characters in Baker's songs experience much and often no happiness. That does not mean that listening to this troubadour makes you sad or depressed. The songs are easy to follow, Baker tells them with conviction and fills them with beautiful details.
He has sung about the beauty of things and often looks for it in the details. The album is put in a cover made by Sam Baker. The paintings show horses that have been put on the canvas with a brush. It is an image that fits the power of the stories played. Horses And Stars has twelve numbers and earns twelve stars.”
– Jaks Schuit (Real Roots Cafe - Netherlands)
“Sam Baker’s story has often been told, a terrorist attack survivor, a lone troubadour and a passionate storyteller with a difference. Singer songwriters often have the luxury of inhabiting fictional characters in their songs whilst also eloquently telling the truth about themselves at the same time. Sam’s songs tell us that his own reality has come at great personal cost, some of which is reflected here in a sparse and clutter free setting. For Sam’s first live album, those life experiences come to us in a most direct manner, before an almost silent audience. Though it sounds pretty much an empty space judging by the sparse applause, there is still much electricity evident in the room.”
– Allan Wilkinson (Northern Sky Reviews)
"Live and solo (Baker and a guitar and a small piece of wood to tap his foot on), this album is rugged, open and honest. Laid bare like a roots Lou Reed or Leonard Cohen, his songs are challenging – about everyday people facing alcoholism, car wrecks, racism, drug addiction, a mother’s abandonment or his own childhood in a small Texas prairie town – but they are compelling. Raw.”