Sam Baker

Land of Doubt

Summer Jams Clearance Sale

A tentative delicateness to Sam Baker's singing and songwriting defined his first four albums, masterworks of character-driven narrative hinging on the subtlest details. They etched Grace in the daily toil, Mercy in the mundane. Both micro and macro revelations thread the Austinite's work since that latter 2004 debut, catching in his hushed, halting vocal delivery, each word a struggle seeking its own purpose as if expression alone might excavate waiting redemption. Baker's own journey hovers unavoidably behind all his work: recovery from a near-death terrorist attack as a young man in Peru, in which he's brought back to life with shattered hearing, a crippled left hand, and a palpable sense of wonder and appreciation for life that's matured into high-pitch awareness. Baker's songs carry with them an intrinsic need to be sung, this world of horror and beauty too much to bear alone. Fifth disc Land of Doubt arrives four years after Say Grace garnered the local troubadour overdue national acclaim, and in working with Nashville producer Neilson Hubbard, he again finds room to breathe in unhurried arrangements. Instrumental interludes act as moments of reflection throughout the album, but the atmospheric tone set between Will Kimbrough's haunting sustains and Don Mitchell's trumpet take shape around Baker's stiff vocals. Opening scene setter "Summer Wind" blooms contemplative Southwestern noir, doubt closing in at the edges of its author's search for salvation. Love drifts away ("Leave," "Peace Out") as characters fight internally to express their fears ("Same Kind of Blue," "Say the Right Words"), yet the quiet moments of grace spread as well ("Margaret," "Love Is Patient"). Mary Gauthier co-wrote ragged junkie lullaby "Moses in the Reeds," but the titular closer expands Baker's sound with an even darker, jazz-infused border chant. Land of Doubt stakes Sam Baker a space to expand and linger in his world of worry and wonder.


A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Sam Baker
Quit Your Day Job: Sam Baker
Quit Your Day Job: Sam Baker
Song whisperer once picked cotton

Doug Freeman, Jan. 5, 2018

Texas Platters
Sam Baker
Say Grace (Record Review)

Doug Freeman, Aug. 23, 2013

More Music Reviews
Texas Platters
Daniel Johnston
Chicago 2017 (Record Review)

Raoul Hernandez, Feb. 21, 2020

Texas Platters
Kinky Friedman
Resurrection (Record Review)

Rick Weaver, Jan. 3, 2020

More by Doug Freeman
What We're Listening to This Week
What We're Listening to This Week
Otis Wilkins, Fuck Money, Cash Grab, Jake Lloyd, and more notable sounds

Aug. 12, 2022

Fifth Annual KOKEFEST Brings Clint Black and More to Hutto
Fifth Annual KOKEFEST Brings Clint Black and More to Hutto
Two-day lineup includes Turnpike Troubadours, Robert Earl Keen, Aaron Watson, and more

Aug. 5, 2022


Sam Baker

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle