In April, Brighton UK songwriter Michael Baker released his fabulous “Keys to the Kingdom” E.P.
The lead track “Dust And Bone” (featuring co-vocalist Georgia Mason) was soaring yet soulful [You can check our Full Review of the E.P. Here].
We had a chance to see him play live this week at the excellent venue — Zigfrid von Underbelly at Hoxton, East London. UK.
Michael sang with unselfish enthusiasm.
His buttery hickory-smoked vocals were robust and rugged, most of the time, but he could also reach undefinable and truly effective highs.
The best moments were when he got angry. And then the furious drama spat out, emotions whipped across his face. Like a cruel wind.
For this reason, and the remarkable showmanship from his band, this was an hypnotically transfixing experience.
Each song was so seriously rendered, in fact, that Michael turned it into a slog. But it was never a slog for the delighted audience, who had rarely seen such generous passion. They were genuinely fascinated.
‘Leaving it All’ allowed contrition and sobriety to extend through carefully picked guitar plucks.
Michael told us us that this song was inspired by his own grandfather. He had made the decision to return to his country-home, once the call of the city lights failed to excite him. It was a song about passing time and lamenting some moments, yet cultivating the next.
At Hoxton Michael performed with his full band, but still made room in his set for one-or-two delightful ‘busking’ numbers.
He tends to take his ‘lighter’ acoustic songs with him from place to place (he never stops working) — and these are often performed in a trio, with his bassist and drummer.
So he tried out new song ‘Trouble With Sleep’ which was delivered with flickering eyelashes of beat and groans of antipathy.
The song was built gradually from beneath dark blue-tinted surfaces. “We will never be lonely…” He almost cried.
The liquid electricity of Chris Horsfall’s guitar often cut across the grooves of Michael’s songs. And this, plus the melodic keyboard work, helped to provide acidic rind to the folk rhythms.
Songs were almost always perforated with secret uneasiness — perhaps (even) a sense of foreboding. Michael’s song-writing tends to embrace folk, blues and even rockabilly sounds. So, although they might seem deep and penetrating, his songs are also lively and filled with uplifting spirit .
This was an evening of melancholic fun. Clever stuff!
See Michael play next on 30th July at The Duke of Cumberland, Whitstable for The Whitstable Oyster Festival.