A Little Help From His Friends
"It's not like I'm going to come out with a different voice or play guitar much better," he laughs. "It's all I got, and I'm grateful that people have responded."
As a natural songwriter's songwriter, Baker's work has attracted contributions from an expanding number of musicians. Players on his two albums include local mainstays like Walt Wilkins, Gurf Morlix, and Lloyd Maines, while Baker's rough voice has received accompaniment from sister Chris Baker-Davies, plus Marcia Ramirez, Stephanie Urbina Jones, and outlaw first lady Jessi Colter.
"I felt like I was hit by lightning," says Wilkins of the first time he heard Baker play. "I couldn't believe how great each song was. I thought, 'This is one of the best writers alive,' and it was a great gift to hear him."
Wilkins helped produce both of Baker's albums in Nashville alongside Tim Lorsch, who brought additional artists into the fold like Hank Williams Jr. steel guitarist Mike Daly.
"Working with Sam is truly a treasure; he has no preconceived notions, and he just wants to make music," attests Daly. "I've spent so much time just reading his lyrics like poems. It's about real people feeling real things and somehow, as a third person, he seems to observe a reality that people normally just don't see."
Baker's closest ally has become Morlix, who was introduced to Baker's music when a friend played him "Waves" from 2004 debut Mercy. Morlix sought out Baker, and the two become close friends and collaborators.
"He's a real writer," boasts Morlix. "He's poetic as can be. He knows how to trim the ugly fat from a song and get it down so there's nothing there but meat, nothing that doesn't need to be there."
"There's something about the chemistry of our shows together," Morlix adds. "We can play for three hours, and it seems like no time at all. Sam always just turns it into a living-room party somehow."