Album: Sam Baker – Cotton

In 1986 Sam Baker was blown up Peruvian terrorists. He spent days in hospital unable to move, he underwent weeks of surgery including on his brain and treatment for shrapnel and gangrene. After the explosion Sam had to learn to walk and talk again. He’s deaf in one ear and the loudest sound in the other is ringing.

The damage to his brain left him unable, to this day, to easily recall everyday words like ‘chair’. At this point I could reprint the most amazing interview I’ve ever read – I’ll redirect you and let you read it for yourself. Please do.

The point is that every word that Sam Baker sings is precious to him. Every line in each song is work of huge effort. Who knows how autobiographical the tales of religious youths being led astray and unplanned pregnancies are but it’s obvious that they are important to Baker. What’s clear is how affecting these stories are and how well they are told.

In describing Baker’s sound it’s impossible not to think of recent-era Lou Reed albums like 2000’s Ecstasy. There’s the drawl that suggests intimacy with a variety of substances and only a casual acquaintance with melody. There’s the stilted delivery which disrupts the rhythm of songs and keeps the listener on the edge of their earphones. But most of all there is the voice of experience, which makes you feel as though Baker is talking directly to you.

This isn’t the best album ever made but it’s certainly one of the most extraordinary. Just too late for this year but definitely one for next year’s schmercuries.

Still, I bet he’s bored of people mentioning that bloody bomb in every review…

Words: Paul Malloy