Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sam Baker: Pretty World [Music Road, 2007]
A lot of songs get sung on this record--"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "Jacob's Ladder," Stephen Foster's "Hard Times" and Townes Van Zandt's "Waiting Around to Die," and only on that last one does Baker decline to borrow the melody for a spell, thus taking some of the pressure off his own. He leaves Texas to consult a Pakistani psychic on the Lower East side. He chronicles a rich kid who gets away with killing a girl in an auto accident he spends the rest of his life drinking about. He relives Macu Picchu once again. And in crucial songs of thanks, he watches his beloved undo her top and needs two languages to celebrate a Christmas calmer than Robert Earl Keen's and happier than anything James McMurtry's likely to tell the world about. A-