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An evening at the Empress with folk artist Sam Baker

American folk artist Sam Baker performs Wednesday, Oct. 10 at the Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

American folk artist Sam Baker is bringing his sparse, poetic songs to the Empress Theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 7:30 p.m.
Texas-born Baker was travelling in Peru in 1986 when his life changed forever.
He was travelling by train to Machu Picchu when a bomb exploded near him, killing his three seat-mates.
Baker suffered several severe injuries, including brain damage, a cut artery, and blown-in eardrums.
His injuries required more than a dozen surgeries, and he had to relearn how to walk, move and speak.
Though the fingers of his left hand were irrevocably damaged, he was able to hold a guitar pick and taught himself to play his guitar left-handed.
Despite the loss of hearing in one ear and limited hearing in the other, he steadily established a reputation as a first-rank singer-songwriter.
“After my event in Peru, I lived in doubt. I lived in uncertainty,” Baker said. “The days, the nights. Life. Death. Everything that I had known was cast in shadows. Laden with doubt.”
“My eardrums were blown in. I used a Walkman and turned the volume up full so it rattled the bones of the inner ear. Somewhere in there, I knew there was beauty. I felt it. I felt hope. I began to believe that doubt — just as darkness — lifts, and there is joy in the morning.”
Baker released his first record, Mercy, in 2004. It was followed by Pretty World in 2007 and Cotton in 2009.
His 2013 release, Say Grace, was named one of the top 10 country albums of 2013 by Rolling Stone Magazine.
The Associated Press called his 2017 release, Land of Doubt, “utterly evocative.” The album remains true to his signature haunting, melodic style.
“I don’t go for the bold or the pathos,” Baker said. “Those are both beautiful strains of Texas music, but it’s not what I do. I like starkness; West Texas is stark. The land and sky don’t have accessories; the lines are big. The lines are clear.”
Baker’s musical storytelling gives voice to emotions tender and bitter, personal and universal.
“Life is a gift,” Baker said. “Gratitude for what remains is more helpful than resentment for what was lost. All I’ve got is this one breath, and if I’m lucky, I get another.”