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May 1, 2017



By Geoffrey Himes



West Texas singer-songwriter Sam Baker releases his long-awaited fifth album, Land of Doubt, on May 1, 2017. The recording represents a deepening of the approach Baker has pursued since his 2004 debut album Mercy: lyrics pared down to their essence set against the spare backdrop of folk-rock instruments used in a chamber-music way.

But there are a few new twists as well. Working in Nashville for the first time with producer Neilson Hubbard, Baker uses the ‘50s-jazz trumpet playing of Don Mitchell and the sustained guitar textures of Will Kimbrough (producer/guitarist for Rodney Crowell and Todd Snider) to frame the lyrics with a kind of chamber-music folk-rock and to break up the ten vocal numbers with five cinematic-sounding instrumental interludes. Baker himself switches from acoustic to electric guitar for this project.

When Baker first emerged 13 years ago, the chief story was how he had survived a 1986 terrorist bombing in Cuzco, Peru, to reinvent himself as a first-rank singer-songwriter. Five albums later, however, the main story now is his continuing growth as a songwriter—broadening his range and deepening his impact. He continues to perform widely in North America and Europe. He has also evolved as a painter, and he will enjoy his first major one-man show in Santa Fe in September.

Rolling Stone called his last album, Say Grace, one of the 10 best country albums of 2013. Lone Star Music declared that “Baker might be the most captivating songwriter in America.” Mojo Magazine’s Sylvie Simmons argued that Baker's songs “are simple on the surface, poetry underneath – hence the Townes Van Zandt comparisons…. Even the songs that don’t quote old gospel standards sound like you’ve always known them.”

Washington Post music critic Geoffrey Himes, who wrote the liner notes for the new album, adds: “Baker uses minimalist verse as well as anyone working today. On his fifth album, Land of Doubt, he further hones that strategy. Whether he is singing about relationships gone wrong, relationships gone right, Vietnam veterans, strung-out single mothers, an awkward wedding or the drought-ravaged Southwest landscape, he employs only a few of the words that would normally be used. With all the distractions carved away, we listeners get to the heart of the matter more quickly and more surely than we would otherwise.”

-Geoffrey Himes (410-235-6627;

Land of Doubt

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