Treading Softly, but Deeply

Scott Baker’s “Hallowed Sighs” Connects With Acoustic Approach

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, ,   From Issue 892   By: Jason Dean

19th February, 2020     0

Bay City recording artist Scott Baker has been a model of consistency since his debut album, Between Seasons, came out in 2007. Every 3 years, the singer/guitarist has released a record of new material. It’s become something of a natural cycle for Baker, with each successive project revealing another dimension of his muse.

Baker’s latest, Hallowed Sighs, dials the volume back a notch and cranks up the intimacy while returning to a seasonal focus. “I wanted to do an acoustic-bass project, and these songs were written with that in mind,” he says. The result is a collection of stripped-down melodies that cement Baker’s status as a skilled tunesmith with a confident maturity that continues to evolve.

Themes of autumn unite the songs on Hallowed Sighs, sonically as well as lyrically. It’s not surprising, then, that the majority were written during September and October. Immediately after his last show of the summer in 2018, Baker “spent a few weeks just cranking out songs.”

Enlisting the ears of drummer Timmy Scott and guitarist Joshua James Corrion, Baker selected the 10 songs that comprise the album. The end result has a cohesive flow that soothes without giving you the urge to snooze.

While the dual acoustic guitar work of Baker and Corrion set the foundational structure for Hallowed Sighs, the album transcends a singer/songwriter vibe by virtue of the musical interaction between the players. Keyboardist Wesley Knust’s accompaniment contributes a palette of colors that enhance the arrangements, particularly on “Feel the Fall” and “Bramble and Burn,” which open the record.

Further in, the interplay between Matt de Heus’s fretless bass and Knaust’s ivories on “To Return Again” is entrancing; think of fallen leaves swirling in a crisp breeze. The austere opening to “Change for the Better,” which follows, offers the promise of renewal. Matthew Nyquist, who has played in Baker’s band for the past few years, shares the bass load with de Heus.

Corrion, who joined the band in late 2017, contributed much to fleshing out the sound of the new record. “Having Josh in the band has really opened things up with harmonies and ideas that just weren’t there before.” Corrion, whose own band, Hellbound Drifters, is making a mark on the local scene, is proving to be a valuable collaborator. “It’s like having another frontman in the band,” says Baker. “Being able to bounce ideas off of him really took the songs to another level.”

Drummer Scott, whose musical association with Baker covers two decades, maintains a steady pulse and keeps things rooted throughout.

Baker’s early work combines extended jams built around his exceptional guitar playing and soul-bearing songwriting. Equally capable of shredding on his six-string or snapping it in half, Baker’s demeanor distinguishes him as a gentle giant able to pull his influences from a variety of sources. For instance, the opening notes of Swingin’ Breeze, from his debut record, recalls ‘70s power pop pioneers Big Star’s Feel and the singing style of D. Boon from seminal punk band The Minutemen.

Following Baker’s debut were Details & Desire (2010) and Northern Hospitality Vol. 1 (2013). Each album was driven by a central theme, culminating with 2016’s Community Aspire, which tapped the Great Lakes Bay region’s rich talent pool to feature guest appearances by Larry McCray, Mike Brush, Brandon Calhoon, Mike Robertson, Jon Potrykus, Bianca Henika, and many others.

Hallowed Sighs capitalizes on the collaborative process as well, but to different effect.

Baker recorded and mixed the album between October 2018 and August 2019 at his Harvest Canteen home studio with some additional production help from Jeff Yantz, who also contributes background vocals to the album. Having the time to revisit songs recorded months earlier to add an enhancement was another benefit of having the artistic feedback of those involved, according to Baker.

Among the ethereal touches on the record are Vickie Vader’s hammered dulcimer on the somber and slightly unsettled I Baker’s 10-year-old twins, Dylan and Addison, also contribute, playing recorder on Ascending, a riff-laden romp that precedes Late Harvest.

“Everything’s harvest-oriented,” says Baker. While he’s referring to the songs on Hallowed Sighs in this case, his analogy can also apply to the craft of songwriting.

Completed and released last fall, Baker subsequently made in-studio appearances on Rob Bieber’s Backstage Explorer and Mid-Michigan Sound Operative on Q90.1 to promote the album and is gearing up for a memorable string of gigs in summer 2020.

 

 

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