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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.
A video from that impromptu showcase session, taken by Dennis DaCosta, is posted on Youtube and can also be viewed on her website. So, a€?Wowa€? being the operative term, when the opportunity to feature her presented itself, we jumped at it.
Layah grew up in the east end of Toronto in an area called a€?The Beaches,a€? near Lake Ontario. This was the point at which Layah connected with long-time friend, Oliver Johnson, to handle the studio end of making the demo.
As Oliver recounts it, he was lucky to have gotten supportive parents in both his father and stepdad. When he was at his fathera€™s house, theya€™d jam till the wee hours and sometimes the police would come.
In order to learn musical theory, Oliver approached a guitarist, Wayne Cass, to show him what he needed to know to get into the Humber jazz program. Toward the end of his first year at Humber, he damaged his hand while moving a heavy table.
At a certain point, the road started to wear Oliver down and he decided to focus on production.
At this point, Layah approached Oliver to produce the demo for which shea€™d gotten a grant. In the statement that follows, we can see the wheels turning as she weighed her options: a€?I came home knowing that I really wanted to pursue music and I made my first recording. Layah enrolled in and completed a three year program at The Toronto School of Homeopathic Medicine and received a DSHomMed, Homeopathic Certification. While involved with her studies she was pursuing music as well, performing quite a bit with Oliver. Not strictly a purist, she believes that a mixture of alternative and traditional Western medicine, a€?the best of both worlds,a€? according to each patienta€™s needs is the best solution.
For two or three years, Layah and Oliver remained friends while they played music together.
Layah says that Oliver has influenced her, injecting some jazz, R & B, soul and funk, given that he had gone on tour with some of the better Canadian players in that realm.
Ita€™s easy to see why The Ontario Arts Council, and the Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Records (FACTOR) came through with grants at critical moments. Additionally, Acoustic Live will be hosting its own annual guerrilla showcase at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance and wea€™ll get to watch Layah and Oliver play a set in our own room. The new CD, Honey, from Layah and Oliver is just about ready for release and wea€™ve gotten to hear a few sample songs. When Oliver was 9, his mother married a Canadian folk artist, a childrena€™s songwriter, and he then split his time between Toronto and New Hampshire. After high school, following her year of touring and playing, the artistic and practical sides of Layah collided. We here in the Northeast can thank our lucky starsA  for a number of chances to see her live.
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. During the 2009 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference, he said, a€?Youa€™ve got to head over to the DJsa€™ afternoon meeting. He played Bruce Cockburn, Joni Mitchell, Dire Straits, The Pointer Sisters, Bruce Springsteen, The Beach Boys, Cyndi Lauper, Kate Bush a€¦ I never did any rebelling against my parentsa€™ choice of music. The question concerning what direction to take with her life still hung in the air and she appears to have approached it with a calm deliberation in incremental stages.
Although music was primarily a hobby, he had an array of musical instruments in the living room, including a drum kit. Hea€™d jam with friends at his dada€™s all summer and then spend the school year with his mother and stepdad in Toronto.
Hea€™s still amazed at the way his father would cajole the officers, claiming the sound wasna€™t all that bad. He never really studied a€¦ until he went to Humber College in Toronto, which has a program similar to Berklee College of Music in Boston. Cass was a€?a great guitar player and a great teacher,a€? a favorite that Oliver would watch play in clubs.
He found a partner and opened up a studio that, today, works predominately on television projects.
She got the grant for her first demo and began recording, but decided that she wanted to pursue a degree in homeopathy as well. In addition, some readers might remember the Dove Self Esteem Funda€™s 2006 a€?True Colorsa€? TV Campaign. Each time Layah had any doubts about music as a chosen path, every time she needed it, a grant would come through. Layah had to put the guitar aside and let Oliver provide the instrumental accompaniment solo. When I touched on this, Oliver demurred, saying that Layah had brought her own wide range of influences for him to have had all that much effect on her sense of style. Layah and Oliver will be playing Music on 4 in Manhattan on November 18th and Our Times Coffeehouse on Long Island on November 19th.
Theya€™ll also play a formal Tricentric showcase and numerous other showcases (see the performance list below).
Layah will always have a keen ear for the vagaries of love and relationships, but she has her eye on the fate of humankind as well. During the 2009 Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference, he said, a€?Youa€™ve got to head over to the DJsa€™A  afternoon meeting.
TheA  question concerning what direction to take with her life still hung in the air and she appears to have approached it with a calm deliberation in incremental stages.
Hea€™d jam with friends at his dada€™s all summer andA  then spend the school year with his mother and stepdad in Toronto. He never really studiedA  a€¦ until he went to Humber College in Toronto, which has a program similar to Berklee College of Music in Boston. Her soaring, pitch-perfect vocals and melodic sense are mesmerizing.A  Then, therea€™s the writing. Layah and Oliver will be playing Music on 4 in Manhattan on November 18th and Our Times Coffeehouse on Long Island onA  November 19th.
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.
When I started taking piano lessons at home at 8 years old, I started studying show tunes, so I could sing along with what I was playing, and I got into musicals. Their families were close friends and theya€™d have various holiday dinners, celebrating a variety of spiritual doctrines together as they saw fit. During those 3 months, he got a job in a computer store that sold software for digital recording. During the first few years of pursuing music, I had some questions about how it would pan out and whether this really was a good spot for me.


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. We have home videos of me prancing around in my diapers, singing along with the music that he loved. He learned about the software and about producing and, as an employee, was able to purchase the software at an affordable price.
The a€?lemonade-from-lemonsa€? character of both accidents might lead one to believe that a certain magic guided them. 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. Their style is what might be termed a€?jazzy folk.a€? I asked if shea€™d be singing for the DJs and she responded that it had already taken place.
In 3 months, Oliver learned everything he needed to know to get into Humber, entering at age 22. When it came time to re-enroll in school, he was tapped to play for a group that toured all over Canada. Stepping off the stage during a pause, she fell when the overturned plastic bin that was placed as a makeshift step collapsed [too late for a lawsuit at this point, I suppose]. Sam was still alive, but the explosion severed the main artery and vein in his left thigh and he almost bled to death. He learned a lot of theoretical things that allowed him to communicate ideas, rather than hashing them out by demonstrating on the guitar. He chose that and, between playing on the road and producing when he got home, he never went back to school. Even though Ia€™m primarily pursuing music at this point, it enriched my life in such a great way, in terms of being able to help myself and my family and friends and broadening my understanding of the human body. 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.
A couple of other interested presenters showed up, as I suggested we go to my own guerrilla showcase room. 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. Thus, about six of us got our very own private Layah Jane showcase performance a€” about 3 songs. It wasna€™t like one day it occurred to me, a€?Oh, I could do this.a€™ It just naturally grew, I think.
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. In concert, sometimes she sings solo with just Oliver on guitar and on some songs, she and Oliver both play guitar. By the late a€™80s he had gotten a guitar, strung it upside down and learned to fret with his right hand.
I wrote in the following montha€™s NERFA wrap-up issue: a€?Shea€™s like Diana Krall with a guitar. Sam added, a€?Not only that, ita€™s killing your favorite children.a€? Knowing what to take out is important. Layah Jane would be the result.a€? On paper, that might not seem like much, but seen live, it packs quite a wallop. Additionally, it happens that Oliver is a brilliant, seasoned guitarist, having toured Canada with top-of-the-line acts. 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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