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Adele attended a school for performing arts where her obvious talents were nurtured and honed. In 2006 one of her friends posted her demo on 'My Space' and subsequently Adele was offered her first recording contract. This album was thought to have been based on the experience gained from the break-up of her relationship. Adele toured extensively to promote this album, however she was forced to cancel part of the tour due to problems associated with her voice. Sam half sings, half speaks in a gently sand-blasted drawl, and it took until 2006 for people to start taking notice. In 1986, a friend asked Sam, then 32, if he wanted to join him on a trip to the mountains of Peru. Part of Sama€™s ability to focus on the drama within the lives of ordinary people is his small-town upbringing. During that time, Sam played guitar (right-handed, then) in bars for fun and to meet people, particularly pretty girls. Still in a panic mode, he felt driven, in a nebulous way, needing to recover what he had lost.
He suffered phobias, always seeking to keep objects between himself and large store windows, fearing shards of glass that might be hurled by an explosion. Looking back, he realizes that he was suffering from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder. In 1998, his sister, musician Chris Baker-Davies, made a record, Southern Wind, and included some of Sama€™s early songs. As one reviewer put it so aptly: a€?Therea€™s a conspiracy between Sam Baker and his studio production team to break your heart.
If those of us living in the New York metropolitan area are lucky, more venue operators here will put this brilliant songwriter to work and wea€™ll see a lot more of him. Sam Bakera€™s awareness and appreciation of the beauty and detail in lifea€™s moments extend to his photography skills.
Clad in a black turtleneck, Sam Baker peers out from the cover of his debut album Mercy, released in 2004. Somewhere in the almost three decades since his near-destruction, in order to move forward, he managed to find some forgiveness for the Shining Path. I was driving home from the 2010 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, the two-lane blacktop of Route 22 South stretching out in front of me. While I tend to invest a lot in the psychology of the farm lifestyle, Susan sees things in more practical terms. Susan counts her blessings when it come to the education she got in her small-town high school. But what good fortune to have this unusual talent in the middle of the cornfields that my teacher and friend Alan Jacobsen was able to provide this unusual kind of encouragement and understanding. Susan also recalled: a€?My high school piano teacher would record all the Marion McPartland shows and give me cassettes of them. Susan went to college at the University of Iowa and received a bachelora€™s degree in voice. While she was at Temple, she played jazz piano in nightclubs and restaurants to make ends meet. After seeing Nancy Griffith in concert at a club in Philadelphia, she came to the realization that writing and singing songs based on personal experience was a perfectly valid way to expend her musical talent.
She surfaced again and again through the a€?90s, always giving a dynamic, thrilling performance. In 2004, she released the first of her a€?themeda€? projects, I Cana€™t Be New, which drew on her experience with pop standards.
This got her the aforementioned appearance on the Marian McPartland show and also, brings us to the issue of her ingrained sense of humor. The most recent of Susana€™s projects, Classics, takes pop songs and weds them to classical themes.
When I remarked about the impressive diversity in her songwriting a€?projects,a€? and not playing it safe, she expressed appreciation. When I made comparisons to the diverse approaches Ia€™ve used as a visual artist (drawing, painting), her emotional core showed its strength. In parting, I mentioned that it seemed as if her audiences were bigger and more appreciative these days. Susan has a strong connection to her audienceA  and looks forward to interaction with them. As well as singing, she plays a number of musical instruments including guitar, piano, bass, celesta, percussion, and keyboard. Sam, an outdoor-loving, whitewater river guide, said a€?Sure.a€? After hiking ice-capped peaks for six days, they wanted to see Machu Picchu, so they went to Cuzco and got on the tourist train to get there. In the wake of the explosion, he couldna€™t walk, and the back of his left hand had a channel-like hollow blown out of it. Hearing his songs played by others made him want to push further, to really learn the craft of songwriting. Wilkins told Sam he knew how he should sound and arranged for Sam to visit Nashville, his recording base.
I saw him perform the song a€?Mennonitea€? from that album in 2013 at a house concert at Kathryn_space in Manhattana€™s East Village. In a€?Ditch,a€? wea€™re treated to a peek inside the mind of a man who lays pipe and is grateful for the work.
He felt driven (and still does) to make sense of why his life was spared and why the boy he was talking with died in the blast.
There may be a stronger sense of purpose, a drive to overcome any obstacle, an unshakeable emotional center.
As she recalls, a€?My older brother learned guitar from Sister Marie Claire of the Franciscan nuns of Saint Marya€™s Chapel School in Manchester, Iowa.


If you have parents who enjoy what you do, you will never stop doing it for your entire life. When pressed further, she distilled the varying elements of a rural personality for me this way: a€?Other people who grew up in the countryside, people Ia€™ve met who grew up on farms or ranchesa€¦ therea€™s a practicality to those people, a straightforwardness, a plainspokenness that I find really wonderful.
Afterward, she moved to Philadelphia and earned a mastera€™s degree in voice at Temple University. She had a gig every Friday night at the Pen & Pencil club (an after-hours Journalista€™s club) The man who ran it, Ron Patel, wanted to have a a€?Chantoosiea€? in the corner.
Alan Pepper, owner of the Bottom Line saw as much as I did, and more, and created the Bottom Line record label, of which Susan was the first to be signed.
She wrote an entire album of her own Cole Porter-like songs, utilizing her considerable chops as a pianist and guitarist, her razor-sharp lyrics and her muscular vocals. I like somebody who can turn a phrase, who can put words together in a way you cana€™t see coming. I searched Eddiea€™s Attic online and found that Susan was playing during my visit, so I bought two tickets. She became became interested in the project after attending the Chicago Gospel Music Festival. There are some songs where shea€™s a lot more generously hopeful about religious practices that many of us disillusioned lapsed practitioners would be.
Then, with mock seriousness, she said, laughing, a€?I really feel bada€¦ theya€™ll throw me in the grave, saying, a€?Well she took that all too far. She said, a€?a€?When you see someone over the course of a career and they always have something to bring to an audience, youa€™ve got to respect that.
The album was hugely successful attaining double platinum in the US and four times platinum in the UK.
It was enormously successful, and gaining her many records, such as the first female singer to have three singles in the top ten on Billboard at the same time.
In December of that same year Adele announced she would be taking a break prior to beginning work on her next album.
Sitting in a small compartment, two abreast, a German couple opposite him and their teenaged son next to him, Sam took no notice of the red rucksack on the shelf above the head of the boya€™s mother seated diagonally across from him.
A pilot rest stop was scheduled on the way, but a young girla€™s mortal injuries caused the flight to proceed directly to San Antonio so her family could see her and she could have her last rites. He also wrote a few love songs, but, as with many a budding songwriter, these were mundane, a€?I love you, you love me, you dona€™t love mea€? affairs.
He told one interviewer: a€?The big things in my life have encouraged me to look at the small things.
It was real loud a€” there were trucks going by, people were eating and they were dropping plates and stuff. Wilkins and co-producer Tim Lorsch recorded Sama€™s voice, guitar and harmonica on a dozen originals, then layered background instruments and vocals to create Sama€™s brilliant 2004 debut, Mercy. However, the most affecting of these, from Pretty World, may be a€?Broken Fingers,a€? which he performed live on Harrisa€™s show, a song in memory of that German boy: Forget his face? His cracked, raspy vocal rides the scalpel-sharp quicksilver combination of pedal steel and fiddle. Larger, more viewable versions of these photographs (and many more, plus his paintings) can be found on the blog page of his website.
I was passing through farmland, marvelling at the quiet beauty of corn rows, of the silos that peeked out from beyond them, and the stately, weathered white of the homes and barns.
Case in point: A musically gifted girl raised on an isolated hog farm in Manchester, Iowa, surrounded by a loving, supportive family.
Alan Jacobsen was a Buddy Rich-type drummer working as a music teacher at the Manchester High School. Ia€™d hear Marian McPartland talking to this one, or that one a€” Oscar Peterson a€” and listen to how they did it. He said to her, a€?I have this picture of a rummy bar, so go over in the corner and sing something and play something.a€? Susan bought Gershwin and Cole Porter songbooks and enlarged her repertoire of standards.
Somewhere around the time that her third album, Last of the Good Straight Girls was released (1995), maybe a little before, I saw her play live, at the now-defunct Bottom Line nightclub in NYC.
The next album, on that label Time Between Trains might contain the most of my favorites in her repertoire. When she cradles that song in her big voice, it becomes a call to find every woman who has ever been mistreated and do battle for her. For me, there has always been a discrepancy between what religion professes to be and what its practitioners actually are. In another interview, she states: a€?There is a religious left that is stepping up and into the fore and has a real case to make in making this country a better place. Therea€™s nothing more to be gained from thata€” unless you feel the need to show of and have people clap for you, which is kind of pathetic. They choose wisely, the prioritize wisely and theya€™re giving people something very, very real. She was the first living singer to have two top five hits in both the singles and album charts simultaneously since the Beatles.
I felt every room I walked in, every car I rode in, every plane I flew in, was going to blow up.
The biggest push came from Morlixa€™s leverage with influential British disc jockey Bob Harris, who played it on his national radio show.
The girl blossoms as a musician whose talent usually dwarfs those around her and leaves audiences enthralled. When you grow up and therea€™s your corn out in the field and here comes the hail storm and there goes your seasona€¦ therea€™s an acceptance of things beyond your control that in a healthy way counteracts neuroses. Her version of the title track, performed live these days, with Trina Hamlin on harmonica and percussion (Natalia Zuckerman on slide at certain shows) is one of the most thrilling concert experiences I can recall in years. A well-written comedy song can hang around for a long time, but it takes more effort and it takes more brains.


This album went to number 1 in 26 countries worldwide and her outstanding record achievements continued. Suddenly, a bomb planted in the rucksack by Shining Path guerrillas went off with the train still in the station, sending shrapnel outward, killing the German family and four others immediately. There was time to travel in those days, so when his friend suggested that fateful trip, Sam eagerly agreed. When his survival was assured, they finally did tendon implants and Sam began rehabilitation. I would write long pieces, word after word after word.a€? His writing kept improving, but it just wasna€™t good enough. Under the cerulean blue of the sky, with clouds like cotton pulled apart, floating in tufts, there were no people in evidence.
I also think that the best songs contain things that people dona€™t say, people cana€™t say, people are afraid to say. Sam was still alive, but the explosion severed the main artery and vein in his left thigh and he almost bled to death. In all that quiet beauty, I could not help pondering the delicate, sometimes brutal, sometimes violent contract made between the farmer and nature. Thata€™s all I wanted him to do.a€? Her brother played in the folk mass and then, Susan followed suit.
Thata€™s a great gift, because they didna€™t need to express themselves through our success in the arts. A small town in rural Iowa, that you would have a high school band teacher who had a phenomenal amount of jazz talent. Later, while promoting her album of self-penned a€?standards,a€? I Cana€™t Be New, released in 2004, Susan appeared on Mariana€™s show.] She continued, a€?That played a role and, years later, there I am, on the Marian McPartland show!
When I told her of this, she responded, a€?Give me a room of 200 people or less, and wea€™re gonna have a good time. People like Greg Brown and Richard Thompson, who stay true to it, who always find something new to say, and new ways to do it. It would take 17 reconstructive surgeries and a long time for the gestation to finish and fully emerge, but it did, from a life totally redirected.
His left hand was still a mess and there was a cut tendon and a knuckle blown off the right. When you make your own entertainment, if you have music around the housea€¦ You might wind up playing your instrument longer, you might wind up actually practicing, you might wind up experimenting with it. Pretty rare, because most music teachers, most band directors at the high school level, are all about the marching band. Everything else dwindles in comparison.a€? If religion has something to offer society outside of individual comfort in our darkest hours, that would be it. Songwriting requires a commitment to doing it and not getting it right for a long timea€¦ expecting it all to work right away is a mistake in any endeavor. An operation in a local hospital saved his life, but he developed gangrene and was dying from the damage to his brain and kidneys.
When Sam toured Britain in support of Pretty World, he did a live slot on Harrisa€™ radio show, and told Harris how grateful he was for sending his career to a brand new level. While I was doing that, melodies would come and they would be like a cardinal, a very bright red bird that flies against the window, saying, a€?Pay attention to me. Thata€™s what theya€™re supposed to doa€¦ keep those kids marching, keep them organized, doing something as a group.
You have to give yourself a long runway to take offa€¦like a big plane,a€? she said, laughing. They really want to be surprised, engaged, a little scared or uncomfortablea€¦ or deeply moveda€¦ or surprised at how deeply moved they are.
He said: a€?I dona€™t know that you know how instrumental you are in my being here, not just in London, but wherever I am as a writer or a player.
He laughed and said, a€?That hand just went up all by itself, didna€™t it?a€? Sama€™s warmth and humor made it a special night. It would be left-handed picking this time, since those fingers would never again finger frets. He sent me home with some Count Basie records, some Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams, Carmen McRae, some Sarah Vaughn. Thata€™s where all discovery is at.a€? She has also tried ballet and a few other disciplines outside her comfort zone. Then you wona€™t be bored.a€™ [laughs] Thata€™s the first obligation of a show that it not be boring! Then you wona€™t be bored.a€™ [laughs] Thata€™s the first obligation of a show that it not be boring!A  If I want boring, I can stay at home and put on background music and vacuum! By the late a€™80s he had gotten a guitar, strung it upside down and learned to fret with his right hand. Sam added, a€?Not only that, ita€™s killing your favorite children.a€? Knowing what to take out is important. This really tilted my head - a€?What is THIS?a€? I worked on jazz chords that I heard on the records, from, like, Freddy Green Style Guitar Comping [a book on swing rhythm strumming]. I was shocked.a€? Harris acknowledged how eager he was to hear someone Morlix had rhapsodized over, and subsequently, how much he loved Sama€™s work. The power of a€?noa€? when I leave stuff out makes the power of a€?yesa€? much more compelling.



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