Don Baker Band
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Don Baker Band


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"Duckin' & Divin'"

October 23rd 2003

Baker settles into an inspired collaboration with Louis Stewart on "You'll Never Know", elevating the mood immeasurably.

Baker's take on "Cocaine Blues" is bathed in irony, his cover of Big Bill Broonzy's "Black, Brown & White Blues" a timely no-nonsense vignette with painful resonance these days.

The second CD of instrumentals magically captures the man's characteristically fiery harmonica.

(c) The Irish Times - The Irish Times

"Duckin' & Divin'"

22nd October 2003

This double-album from Ireland's premier bluesman features eleven new tracks, a sprinkling of previous faves, and a CD of mostly harmonica-led instrumentals. It's Baker's most adventurous offering to date, touches of jazz, soul, Irish trad, country and reggae spicing up his normal diet of blues rock.

Tracks are recorded solo or with a full-tilt boogie band and variations in-between, and Baker is blessed with the guitar company he keeps, Jimmy Faulkner, Jimmy Smith, Gerry Hendrick and jazz hero Louis Stewart all shining.

'The Holy Vow' cuts to the bone, Aisling Drury Byrne's cello an unsettling counterpoint to Baker's graphic depiction of child abuse. 'The Politician' is a timely put-down of the criminals who run the country, while Baker seethes with anger on Big Bill Broonzy's anti-racism 'Black, Brown and White Blues'.

He less successfully covers 'You'll Never Know' as a tribute to his father, while 'Sea Of Heartbreak' may now be over-familiar to fans. 'Me And Louis' is an appealing instrumental based around a Baker/Stewart studio jam, 'Goodtime Woman' hints at cool jazz, the tender 'Maria' is aided by Eric Coates' melodic bass, and Liam Kennedy's mandolin turns 'Wouldn't Treat A Dog' into "bluesgrass".

The instrumental 'Amazing Grace' restores some spirituality to a karaoke cliche, Charlie McCoy's 'Funky Duck' and 'Baker's Shaker' rock out in fine style, and the solo harmonica piece 'Jiggin' the Blues' has an exhilaratingly subtle Irish trad-gets-the-blues vibe.

(c) Hot Press - The Hot Press

"Almost Illegal, Almost Wasn't"

20th February 2003

Don Baker's new release, "Almost Illegal," is the blues album that almost wasn't. Originally recorded in Dublin in 1989, Don and accompanying musicians had no idea midway through their sessions that the studio had gone bankrupt. While recording rhythm tracks with Brian Downey (Thin Lizzy) and John Kearns (Stockton's Wing), officials came in and starting removing equipment from the studio.

Needless to say, this came as an unwelcome surprise to Don Baker and company, who had already paid for a three weeks studio time to complete the project. Kevin Finnerty, a friend of Baker's, came to his aid and booked session time at another studio.

This 'new' collection includes very strong early stuff from Don Baker, with help from Brian Downey, Keith Donald, John Kearns, Gerry Simpson, John Carroll, Anto Brennan, Mick Doyle, Randall Rainwater and Dick Fagan. Strong covers of Willie Dixon's "Hoochie Coochie Man" and Big Bill Broonzy's "Louise," are weaved flawlessly into the tracks along with Baker originals such as "Used Shoe Blues," the title track "Almost Illegal," and Baker's locomotive blues-harp on "Don's Train". Originally engineered by Ian Bryan and Phillip Begley, the tracks were digitally re-mastered in 2002 for release on CD, and showcases a fine first studio effort from the stellar Irish harmonica master and blues-breaker.

(c) Rock Island & Argus Dispatch - Rock Island & Argus Dispatch

"Laid Back, Late Night Blues"

28th September 2000

The seventh album in just over a decade from one of this country's most gifted blues practitioners, Miss You finds Don Baker in an introspective mode as he turns fifty. Apart from a handful of tracks, including the up-tempo opener, 'Chains' and the straight rock and roll of 'Mama', the bulk of the material here is laidback, late night blues fare.

Highlights include 'Drivin', a six-minute acoustic workout reminiscent of Tony Joe White's swampy Louisiana style. The song also has a nice local lyrical reference: "Been driving all night long/With Aslan on my radio/ It sure is a Crazy World".

Equally enjoyable is the straightforward, no-nonsense acoustic picking on 'Jackin' It In', a tongue-in-cheek ditty done in a J J Cale style. With its references to growing up in poverty, 'Childhood Blues' is not only autobiographical but boasts the most adventurous and effective arrangement on the album.

Of course, Baker's reputation as one of the world's greatest harmonica players remains unchallenged and he demonstrates his blistering technique on a pair of instrumentals here. 'Funky Duck' written for Baker by Charlie McCoy is an electric blues stomper in the Junior Wells/ Chicago vein while 'Waiting for Daylight', a slow-burning acoustic number with searing bottleneck guitar is a fitting reminder of what he does best.

(c) Hot Press - The Hot Press

"Just Don Baker"

30th September 1998

Don Baker clearly realises a deep personal ambition with this simple, lovingly crafted statement of his love for the blues. Accompanying himself on guitars, with only his wonderfully moody harmonica for company, Baker ambles through an inviting and well balanced selection of his own songs and a number of blues standards.

His voice may not be one of life's perfections but, like the singer, it has loads of character, while his guitar picking is elegant and unhurried. His songs vary in quality but there is no doubting his sincerity. His covers are affectionate; they have not withered in the years of playing them.

This is a man doing what he loves. It's in a studio but it could be in his front room. Pull up a seat.

(c) Irish Times - Irish Times

"Comfortable, as in Old Shoe"

29th September 1998

Don Baker is a popular singer, guitarist and harmonica player who has built a distinguished career in his native Ireland. Bono of that other Irish entity U2 has called Baker the greatest acoustic harmonica player in the world.

As a singer, Baker reminds one of Jim Croce, in that his voice is pleasant though husky, smooth as a cool August night. His new album, "Just Don Baker" (Round Tower RTMCD 91), contains an eclectic mix of old and new.

Eight of the numbers are Baker originals. The others include some favorites, such as Bill Broonzy,s "Hey Hey Baby" and Donovan,s wonderful "Catch the Wind."

Baker has an album that will be welcomed by the easy listening crowd, yet has enough punch to attract diehard folkies as well.

(c) Generator 21 Magazine - Generator 21 Magazine

"Baker's jailhouse blues"

2nd May 1993

People who think that Don Baker is purely a blues singer and harmonica player are in for a surprise. To that list you can now add film star.

For the past month, Don Baker has been in jail. Kilmainham Jail to be precise, filming his portrayal of an IRA prisoner in Jim Sheridan's latest picture, "In The Name of The Father", a film based on the Guilford Four.

It's a role that Don didn't foresee himself doing, and it's a far cry from his bread and butter career of singing and blowing, but it's something he's undoubtedly enjoying.

Dressed in regulation prisoner threads - an ungainly combination of blue and yellow - and sitting in a portacabin between filming, Don says of his latest career incarnation, "This is a huge risk, but I'm good at taking risks."

Don reckons his intuitive acting talents for this particular role stem more from his real life borstal experiences than drama classes. "I never thought that I'd see a positive side of having been in prison. All the real acting that I did in the nick comes into play when I'm in front of the cameras. It's second nature to me. For once, I can say that I'm glad I have that experience."

This week sees the release of No Nonsense (RTE), a live album that bears all the trademarks of Don Baker's down to earth approach in both music and performance. Like the man himself, it's honest, unpretentious and likeable. It doesn't preach the blues message of emotional hurt and salvation through pain, merely laying it on the line for people to pick up on if they so choose.

Not that Don Baker wants to be perceived as a blues singer per se. "A lot of the songs on this album aren't blues songs."

He's just about to explain why when he's called back onto the film set to do a scene that involves spitting petrol into a prisons guard's face. Nice work if you can get it....

(c) Sunday Tribune - Sunday Tribune

"Rain on the Wind"

10th April 2006

Ireland's foremost harmonica player and bluesmaster, Don Baker has been treading the boards for decades, and even a cursory listen to his latest release makes it easy to see why his populairty has endured for so long.

Sure, the harmonica-driven wig-outs like 'Almost Illegal' and 'Runaway Train' are alive with furious energy, but he offers much more than that, from the radio-friendly title track, a duet with Aslan's Christy Dignam, through the piano-balladry of 'Miss You' or 'Never Let You Down', to the gospel-tinged blues of 'Help Me Work It Out', where Baker proves himself a more-than-able vocalist.

(c) Hot Press - Hot Press

"What they said"

"Don Baker is the greatest Harmonica player in the world"

Sunday Times
"Baker's trademark is a raw, incisive honesty: it comes across as strongly in his music as in the stories he tells about himself."

Phil Coulter
“His music is as tough, as uncompromising and as honest as the man himself.”

Barry Norman BBC Film Critic
"a fine performance from the Actor Don Baker" - Various


CD 1989 Almost illegal
CD 1991 Born with The Blues
CD 1993 No Nonsense Live
CD 1995 No Regrets
CD 1998 Just Don Baker
CD 2000 Miss You
CD 2003 Duckin' n Divin'
CD 2006 Rain on The Wind


Feeling a bit camera shy


Born with the Blues

Don Baker is a survivor. Desperate conditions during his 1950's childhood saw him hospitalised with Tuberculosis at age 7 and then drift into petty crime as a child and young adult which brought him in and out of remand homes until age 19. While in hospital Don came upon a harmonica player and was quickly charmed by the instrument. He then acquired a harmonica of his own and drove the matron crazy. It could be said that hospital introduced Don Baker to the harmonica; prison to the guitar and inner-city Dublin tenement life to the blues.

Don Baker was born in Whitehall, Dublin in 1950, into a dysfunctional family. Essentially abandoned and left to fend for himself, largely due to an alcoholic father it was not surprising that the young Don Baker drifted into petty crime, landing up in a remand home for a month at the age of 11. A few years later Don was incarcerated in St Conleth's Reformatory, Daingean run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Don was one of the first people to speak about child abuse (with Gay Byrne on a landmark RTE Late Late Show) and subsequently spoke openly about the horrific abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of the Oblate's who ran the notorious Daingean institution in Offaly in RTE's States of Fear (the programme that forced the Irish Government to make an unprecedented public apology on behalf of the State to the victims of this savage system). Frequently in trouble with the police, Baker was in and out of prison until the age of 19. While in prison, he took up the guitar and according to Don "never looked back". After prison Don lived in the Corporation Buildings in run down inner city Dublin where he was soon introduced to blues music.

Leaving Ireland for the continent of Europe aged 22, he travelled throughout Germany, Austria, Holland and France, playing all the while. He moved on to jazz and blues clubs and the odd support slot at a major concert, with the help of a newly acquired agent. Ten years was spent on the road, going from country to country. During this time he mostly lived on trains, and on people's floors. He began drinking excessively, probably using alcohol to dull repressed emotions dating from childhood. The drinking continued for many years until he finally sought help and at last kicked the booze habit.

In 1979 he was asked by one of Ireland's top TV shows, the Late Late Show, to write a song about inner city Dublin. Don wrote 'Dublin's Inner City' which became a huge hit for The Jolly Beggarmen reaching No. 1 in the Irish charts.

Baker has since built a wide reputation as a harmonica player. Mark Feltham (who has played with Oasis, Joe Cocker and Rory Gallagher) rates him as the greatest acoustic harmonica player in the world, as does Charlie McCoy and U2's Bono.

He is the author of several instruction books on the harmonica, which are on sale in several languages and are distributed throughout the world, as well as five teaching videos. He also adjudicates bi-annually at the World Harmonica Championships in the blues category.

Don Baker's harmonica (or harp) playing is influenced by blues players such as Sonny Boy Williamson and Sonny Terry. Don was also greatly influenced by Charlie McCoy, who has since become a friend and recorded the Don Baker composition 'Jordanna'. Don recorded the Charlie McCoy composition 'Funky Duck' on his album 'Miss You'.

A fine guitar player, Don learned blues guitar by listening to the great country blues players - Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Blake, Robert Johnson, and Scrapper Blackwell.

Don's acclaimed acting debut was in the film "In the Name of the Father". He featured in the role of "Joe McAndrew", the head of the IRA in the prison where Gerry Conlon (Guildford Four) was detained. The movie, directed by Jim Sheridan, starred Daniel Day-Lewis, Emma Thompson and Pete Postlethwaite. Don has since had many successful roles including "Mia" starring alongside Claudia Cardinale, "On the Nose" starring alongside Dan Ackryod and Robbie Coltrane and "Mystics" starring alonside Milo O'Shea and David Kelly.

Don's life has been both poignant and fast paced. Jackie Hayden, a director of Hot Press Magazine and Music Industry Consultant, has documented Don's experiences in the 'Best Sellers List' biography "The Winner in Me" published by Marino Books / Mercier Press. Jackie Hayden's last full-length work was "My Boy: The Philip Lynott Story", which topped the Irish book charts in 1996.