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“And when we laugh together, it’s impossible to be in the past or the future.” Sam Baker

Sam Baker and Stephen Kinney discussing life, love and grace at the March Unplugged on the Front Porch Concert.

Sam Baker and Stephen Kinney discussing life, love and grace at the March Unplugged on the Front Porch Concert.

Snippets from the conversation Stephen had with Sam Baker….

(As many in the audience knew, in 1986 Sam was traveling by train to Machu Picchu in Peru when a bomb placed by the Shining Path guerrilla group in the luggage rack above his head exploded. He was left with numerous injuries, including brain damage, a cut artery, and blown-in eardrums and has had many reconstructive surgeries.)

Stephen: “Now that’s after a lot of surgeries…”

Sam: “They kind of left it alone for a long time because they thought I was going to die and didn’t want to waste time on my hand.” … ‘By the time they got to it, it had some kind of a bug in it.’

Sam talks about his surgeries with a surprising candor and sense of humor. When being treated at a teaching hospital in San Antonio, Sam talked about not being able to see much, but could see people’s faces. One student “projectile vomited”. Sam looked up and said “Well, do you think there is anything else you need to learn from this experience?”

From the audience: “What inspired you then and what inspires you today?”

Sam: “…It was a biological imperative it was a force greater than me that kept me alive. There were times where you know I went into these dream states… I knew I was going to a place, where I was going to a place I was dying. And people I knew were around the room, and I would say, in my head, can’t you see me I am leaving? I’m waving. Can’t you see I’m leaving?

Stephen: “We’ve had questions like… What is the meaning of love?

Sam: “That song- ‘Love Hurts’ that’s a start. We did that for a bit.”

Stephen: “What is the meaning of grace?”

Sam: “Well, I don’t know. You know, I think we’re all here. It’s a beautiful night. We’re all healthy. Not one of us is in the emergency room; nobody is bleeding out. See I don’t technically know what the meaning of the word grace means, but, we are here in this beautiful space singing songs to each other and sitting side by side. If that’s not grace I don’t know what is.”

Stephen: “And it’s pretty cool everyone knows the words to the song Ditch.”


Stephen: “That’s Grace. That’s Cool.”

Sam: “Being in the present with us- our friends our family, people we care about. Being in the present, being right here with each other. And when we laugh together, it’s impossible to be in the past or the future.”

Sights from Sam Baker’s March 19th Unplugged Concert

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Sam Baker returns to Unplugged on the Front Porch!

Sam Baker will return to The Front Porch on March 19th for an incredibly special edition of Unplugged on The Front Porch. One of Austin’s truest talents, Sam will join our third Thursday concert series during the peak of SXSW– a special oasis of an event, away from the traffic and crowds downtown. We promise both plenty of FREE parking and our same intimate listening experience for all of you who venture over to All Saints’ Episcopal Church to witness the sound and soul of Sam Baker, up close and personal.

In 2013, Sam Baker received huge nods from Rolling Stone– they awarded him both the #5 country album of the year for “Say Grace” and the #68 song of the year for “Ditch.” Before that, he had already received flurries of praise from music communities around the United States and the globe, reaching the #1 slot on the Euro Americana charts more than once, and electrifying Austin’s local music scene. One of our state’s most beloved artists, Sam Baker’s innate personal vulnerability and authentic musical genius make for the perfect Unplugged feature. We’re thrilled that he’s coming back to play for us again.

Check out this interview with NPR’s Terry Gross on her show, “Fresh Air,” to further understand what makes Sam Baker so special.

Providing regular opportunities for Austin folks to engage with exceptional musicians in an acoustically exquisite venue– the sanctuary at All Saints’– Unplugged on The Front Porch invites all devoted listeners to gather in one spot on a monthly basis to venerate our city’s best musical storytellers. In just two short hours, our listening experience reaches into the hearts and minds of these musicians as we explore with them not only their art but also their life experiences and opinions in our intimate gathering characterized by both music and conversation.

Each edition of Unplugged on The Front Porch features an hour an a half of music divided into two sets, a fifteen minute interview with the artist, and a fifteen minute intermission. Every concert is taped, and we ask for a donation of $10-$20 at the door that goes directly toward paying our crew and our artists the living wages they deserve. Unplugged on The Front Porch is generated and sustained by two local nonprofits– The Live Music Capital Foundation and The Front Porch– who decided to look for ways to make listening in our community more intentional.

Which is the right choice? Hip-hop, Sufi, or Rai to Best Represent Young French Muslims’ Identity


Driving home today I was caught off guard when I heard the sounds of Hip-Hop music sung in French on the radio. NPR, All Things Considered was playing part of their series of stories about Muslims in Western Europe. I only caught the last minute of a four minute segment on the debate about how Muslim identity plays out in Hip-Hop, so I went home and listened to it in its entirety. “Fascinating” as Mr. Spock would say. I went down a Hip-hop rabbit hole.

France and Religion

France has no official religion, no “In God We Trust” nor prayer breakfasts for Congressman like we do here in the U.S.; they have a system of “laicitie”, the law that dictates that religion is kept private. It is the law that is behind the ban on headscarves in public institutions and burqas in public spaces. Those bans were not popular since France also boasts the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, according to this NPR article.

As ISIS and other radical terrorist organizations associated the Islam and the Muslim religion rise, people become Islamophobic, and lump all Muslims together with what Aboubakar Sabri calls “the Crazy killers” in the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher grocery store attacks in Paris in January of this year the NPR article continues.

So it should be no surprise that Muslim hip-hop artists too should come under attack.


a Brief History

Hip-hop first started in the U.S. in the 1970s as party music, evolving to social commentary in the 1980s, then devolved into the degrading lyrics of gangsta rap in the 1990s, according to the 2007 National Geographic article Hip Hop Planet. “Hip-hop has become the voice of a generation demanding to be heard.” “Around the globe, rap music has become a universal expression of outrage, its macho pose borrowed from commercial hip-hop in the U.S.” it continued.

Rebel Music

Hisham Aidi, the author of the 2014 book Rebel Music: Race, Empire and the New

Muslim Youth Culture, shared his thoughts on French Muslims’ struggle to define themselves, and their frustration that’s expressed in the music young Muslims listen to in the NPR, All things Considered piece on Muslim identity in hip-hop that I heard in the car.  “But French Muslims are conflicted about what music best reflects their experience. In fact, the debate about Muslim identity in France increasingly revolves around music, with different political camps arguing that one style is more conducive to integration (into society) than another.”

There are the rap songs about the ghettos where they live, with lyrics like those in “Misunderstood,” which is about not belonging and not being accepted in France. “I was born here and I’m still called an immigrant”. Goes one lyric. Or there is the soothing, non-threatening music like the Gnawa Brotherhood of Morocco and their Sufi chants. Or would the Rai artists singing about their life in the French suburbs be the best fit for young Muslims.

Previously Aidi had discussed in his January 28, 2015 article for Al Jazeera how French rapper Medine came under attack for his recent track “Don’t Laik” after the attacks on

Charlie Hebdo. “He he was actually presenting a “caricature” of secularism; that version which looks down upon the religiously observant. His critique of laicite, he said, was very much in the spirit of Charlie Hebdo.” Rap artists have long taken issue with Charlie Hebdo’s portrayals of blacks and Muslims, and would often deliberately juxtapose themselves against the publication, asking why the French government doesn’t harass Charlie Hebdo, the way it does rap artists. Disiz, a more established star, defended the younger artist: “Charlie Hebdo brandish their cartoonist card every time they’re criticised, let us brandish ours. We also have the right to excessiveness and humour.”

It is all such an interesting debate to me. Which style of music best fits your life?  Should cartoonist humour be treated differently than satirical lyrics?

3 Things Important to Terri Hendrix 

Terri has overcome obstacles and thrives.

©2014 Elizabeth Williams

©2014 Elizabeth Williams


Terri was diagnosed with Epilepsy in 1989. In 2003 when she was recording “The Art of Removing Wallpaper” she was not at her peak. “I was on medication for my seizures,” she said. “I was overmedicated and had flulike symptoms constantly. I was singing too hard, I developed vocal nodes, and I was never satisfied with my vocals. I was proud of the songs, but there were some, such as ‘Judgment Day,’ where I wanted to redo some lyrics. I felt like this record was the result of me not being in the driver’s seat because I didn’t have my wits about me.” She is quoted as saying in the December 24, 2012 article by Jim Beal Jr. in My SA, the San Antonio Express News. She continued in the article: “There’s definitely still a stigma about it, (epilepsy)” she said. “At a show in New Mexico, a sound man told the light guy, ‘Don’t flick that light or Terri will flop all over the stage.’ I tell kids with epilepsy, ‘You have to own up to the problem, and you can’t drive, but you can still have a life.’ I want to work so the stupidity will decline and empathy – not sympathy, empathy – will rise.”  And rise she has. She had used music, writing and the arts to help her overcome her health challenges and thrive.


Own Your Own Universe is a 501 C3 nonprofit that Terri Hendrix Founded in 2012. It gets it’s name from a line in Terri’s song “Wallet“. Based on her “belief that all things are possible with a sense of purpose, a work ethic and a mission greater than ourselves.” Back in 1992, she taught guitar lessons as a volunteer to inner city teenagers at a juvenile detention center in New Braunfels, Texas. “Teaching a troubled child how to express their emotions through music has also had a lasting impact on me.” Terri explains on the OYOU website. Her mission she continues, “is to bring music, painting, pottery, dance and nature to those who would otherwise be unable to participate and enjoy the arts.”

The OYOU (“Own Your Own Universe”) is a community arts center project based out of Hays County, Texas. With roots in San Marcos, it’s a “Get-It-Done” grassroots operation that strives to get music and all things art into the ears and hands of folks that need it most. She explains in the My SA article: The mission of OYOU is “to develop and implement educational and therapeutic programs related to enhance spiritual growth and expression effectively and creatively in all media.”  “OYOU is well in motion,” she said. “For me, it all started in 1989. I would get so angry when I had an episode. If there had been some kind of support system, it would have helped. “Now I’m trying to hook people up with other people who have the same condition, whatever it is, so the two can start talking to form a support group. With the center, I want to use music as a way to break down barriers. OYOU will be 100 percent handicap accessible. It will be small: capacity about 100 people.” Right now, she is looking for land to build the center in Hays County.

©2014 Elizabeth V. Williams

©2014 Elizabeth V. Williams      Signed by youth she has worked with.

Want to help? Here’s a link so you can donate.

On Being a Woman

Teri uses her life’s experience to help others on their path, help them not only to succeed, but thrive. This song sums up a lot of things about being a woman she had learned when she was younger. Here’s what you missed if you didn’t attend the Unplugged on the Front Porch’s May 15, 2014 concert. Thank you Live Music Capital Foundation for this recording. If I had a Daughter.

How do you deal with adversity? Care to share your story or that of someone you know?


Join us Thursday, March 19th, 7:00pm for Sam Baker!

Sam Baker