FROM Austin, Texas, Sam Baker is the ubiquitous singer-songwriter, except that in his case the songs are delivered almost conversationally.
He talks entertainingly to his audience between numbers, and the tone does not change substantially as he accompanies himself on guitar and, on this occasion, with the significant help of Chip Dolan, also from Austin, on keyboards, guitar and accordion.
Baker is in the tradition of the American troubadour, drawing inspiration and telling stories from his experiences that would otherwise surely deserve a literary outlet.
He can take his cue from watching a James Cagney film on TV or, most memorably, and most movingly, from when he was seriously injured in a guerilla bomb blast on a train in Peru 25 years ago that claimed the lives of a German couple and their son.
He puts himself down as a singer and a guitarist, and even if he is no great shakes in either direction, he has the ability to fully engage with his audience, which hangs on to every word.
Similarly, he jokes about his awkwardness with love songs, citing the opening lines from one of his songs: “There’s a beautiful woman who walks with a limp ...”
The charm, wit and authenticity shine through at every stage.
Quite a few people in the sold out audience on Thursday last week have travelled some distance to see his first appearance in Sheffield, and you can understand why.
Songs are performed from the trilogy of albums, Mercy, Pretty World and Cotton, and there’s a jauncy version of Six Days On The Road to help wrap things up.