Sam Baker show review, photos, and interview by Brian DeSpain
A long-running and notable house concert program in Pittsburg, Kansas has retooled. The resulting non-profit status provided the opportunity to partner with the performing arts center at Pittsburg State University to host folk singer Sam Baker.
Olive Street House Concerts, now dubbed Olive Street Presents, has a longstanding relationship with Baker. With the new non-profit status, assistance by an art grant was received from the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas.
Since 2009, Carol Puckett and Rob Poole have hosted nearly 100 house concerts. “We created the non-profit with the idea of bringing music we love to Pittsburg on a larger scale,” Poole said.
It had been twenty months since Baker’s band performed together. The Bill and Dottie Miller Theater inside the Bicknell Center for the Performing Arts served as the practice space over two days for the band to fine tune.
Baker’s band lineup is comprised of Radoslav Lorkovic on piano and accordion and Tim Lorsch on strings. Singer Ashlie Wallace provided backing vocals.
After the show in Pittsburg on November 12, Baker and crew performed at the Folly Theater in Kansas City on November 13. A final show for Baker in Eureka Springs, Arkansas closed out the seventy-fourth Original Ozark Folk Festival, with long-time accompanist Tim Lorsch.
Americana Highways covered the shows in Pittsburg, Kansas and Eureka Springs, Arkansas where an interview with Sam Baker followed.
This is our overview of the shows. Find our interview here: Interview: Sam Baker in Kansas
Starting out the set, Sam Baker performed “Angel Hair” a song set at Christmas time from the 2009 album Cotton followed by “Same Kind of Blue” from Land of Doubt (2017).
Next was an intriguing new song “Hank and Billy” – a fictional account of Hank Williams and William Faulkner hanging out and driving into the great beyond.
The 2007 album Pretty World got a musical nod with “Orphan” then another new song, “Ace On Ace.” This one is a hat tip to long-time contributor and producer Walt Wilkins.
Six songs from 2013’s Say Grace were also represented. The first was a medley of “Sweet Hour of Prayer” with “White Heat” following. With “Waves” from 2004’s Mercy interspersed with a cover of a song popularized by Elvis Presley – “I Can’t Help Falling in Love” falling between another 2004 song, “Thursday.”
A song portraying the timeline of love between two that meet at a county line bar is next with “Mennonite.” The characters: he is wearing a pearl snap shirt and she, a short, short skirt. We learn they have children together. But the evening of their encounter “On the floorboard there’s a short short skirt / It’s wrapped in the arms / Of a pearl snapped shirt.”
“You are My Sunshine” is medleyed with “Say the Right Words” (2009) followed by a block of three songs from Say Grace: “Button By Button” with “Ditch” and “The Tattooed Woman.”
An accordion interlude is played by Radoslav Lorkovic before “Broken Fingers” – one of the songs that powerfully symbolizes a life-changing event in Sam Baker’s life. One a visit to Peru on a train headed to Machu Picchu, an improvised bomb, tucked in a backpack, exploded in the luggage rack above. Those around him died. Through a series of miracles and interventions, Baker lived.
Baker closed out the evening with the remaining Say Grace song “Go In Peace”.
In Eureka Springs on November 14, a couple notable changes to the set were a cover of the Stephen Foster-penned song “Hard Times (Come Again No More)” and the recounting of the train bombing in “Steel” from 2004’s Mercy which brought Baker forth as a songwriter in earnest. A few other change ups in the set may be noted from the list below. What an amazing night, thank you Sam Baker.
Hard Times (Come Again No More)
Same Kind of Blue
(sample of) Bring Back My Bonnie
Billy and Hank
Button By Button
To Everything There Is A Reason (poem) with violin instrumental
Say the Right Words
Isn’t Love Great
Go In Peace