Born in Itasca, southwest of Dallas, but Austin-bound, Sam Baker developed a fervid cult following with 2004's Mercy. Sophomore effort Pretty World continues its predecessor's frugal moods and lean poetry, although Mercy possesses a more upbeat tone that makes its follow-up seems fragile in comparison. What strikes you first with Baker is the raw, unsteady nature of his voice, a combination of the talking/singing styles common between John Prine and Todd Snider. However, his vision seems slightly askew. "How beautiful are these days" is printed on the inside of the package, and one can't help but wonder if he's living in the same time of endless war and daily tragedy that we are. Still, Baker's view is complete and enrapturing, filled with hints of Townes Van Zandt's genius on "Juarez" and moments as alluring as West Texas in the title track.
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