James Callahan

A Camp Rattler profile: Blues rocker Kaleigh Baker and the killer tale of the ‘Pittston Pistol’

A Camp Rattler profile: Blues rocker Kaleigh Baker and the killer tale of the ‘Pittston Pistol’
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Kaleigh Baker is a Florida-based singer/songwriter that is organically and unapologetically armed to the teeth with unbridled vocal enormity. Possessing equal parts soul, blues, and rock, she weaves a tapestry of tension, beauty, and intrigue that will chill the most jaded of critics. This tidal wave of emotion smashes like a war hammer into your soft spots while simultaneously luring you blindly towards the edge of an inevitable musical cliff. Baker’s raw, almost primal approach to “musical ritual” has captured a loyal and core following all the way up the East Coast, as well as points way, way West. Baker’s early-on willingness to hit the highway and wow eager crowds around the country was what I considered to be one of her superpowers. I can recall her telling me once, years ago, that she was hitting somewhere around 150 live shows a year.

Allow me to back up and rewind – I first caught wind of Miss Baker sometime before my former bar/venue The Rattler had opened and my crew and I were test driving the space known then as Fahey’s Bar on Main Street in Pittston.

I was hosting a gang of old musician friends of mine from Dublin, Ireland. This act was the band Stand (a perfect rock band that I had pursued professionally to no avail, but instead with whom I arrived at a lifelong friendship). Joining Stand that evening was a young saxophone player by the name of Nate Anderson. The lads from Stand said that they had kidnapped Nate the night before at the Bitter End in New York City while he was playing with this absolute powerhouse, force-of-nature female vocalist named Kaleigh Baker. They described in their thick Irish tongue that this woman was a true siren, a full-on storm. I was more than interested… and plus, her saxophonist and I had already become fast whiskey-drinking buddies.

A few months later at Northeastern Pennsylvania’s best-kept secret bar Nak’s by the Tracks in Exeter, we all met Kaleigh. This enormous smile and bigger persona filled the tiny coal miner bar hours before her performance. We all settled in to food, drinks, and to hear in person what we had fallen in love with via her then widely circulated CD “The Weight of It All.” If you haven’t done this yet, go and get on that. It will rattle your insides.

Unfortunately, I cannot give you exact details of that Jameson-drenched first night that Baker performed for us, but I can tell you that she took the tiny Nak’s stage, crumpled it, then threw it in the fucking corner. She tore the roof off that 100-year-old miner bar. This became the first of dozens of stunning Kaleigh Baker/Camp Rattler collaborations.

She traveled from Florida for the opening night of The Rattler, then again years later for the opening of the Camp Rattler Beer Garden. The unique aspect of this professionally successful, no-brainer of a business relationship is that, in spite of our dysfunctional selves, we fostered a genuine friendship – a comradery steeped in mutual respect, underground music, outlaw attitudes, and the raw and real shared appreciation for the dark and beautiful corners of our same but different worlds.

One holiday season, years after that first Baker show, I found myself hosting a Thanksgiving feast for my displaced and solitary artist and musician family. Baker happened to be in that very orbit and joined us for apple stuffing, neck gravy, and too much vino. It was at that huge dinner party on Swallow Street in Pittston that we shared with Kaleigh the rich and sometimes bloody history of our little city. These tales included a cross-section of my own family’s role in the mobster saga that is this area’s legacy. Later the next day, Kaleigh was out at my picnic table with guitar and gear, scratch recording what would become this haunting, calliope-scorched track called “Pittston Pistol.” It is a fictitious first-person story of a scorned and moonshine-fueled woman on the run from the authorities for the murder of her man. The song became an instant crew favorite.

Flash forward almost a decade. Quarantine 2021 – Baker and I are discussing our Camp Rattler video crew traveling to Florida to collaborate with she and her creative/life partner Matt Walker. We are to create some compelling video content for their new material with her most recent musical unit, Someday Honey.

After plans were secured for the video crew to travel South to St. Pete’s at the end of summer 2021, I had voiced a hot desire to flesh out the “Pittston Pistol” narrative in our COVID downtime. Kaleigh wholeheartedly loved the notion. Soon after, with the assistance of the brilliant mind and eye behind Video Ninja Productions, Jared Sokirka, and my right-hand everything, Kristin Rose, we shot the stark, film noir story as we saw it. (Special thanks to Brit Goldberg and our consummate “dead guy” and grip, Greg Shaffer.) Jared and I initially spent a couple days piecing together the gorgeous footage, which was ultimately placed in its final sequence by the very thoughtful Meg Maslo, our frequent creative fourth. As we premiere the video today exclusively on NEPA Scene, we hope that folks love it as much as we do. We believe it captures the reckless and wild spirit of Baker’s deadly tale.

Lately, Baker spends her time fronting Someday Honey. The Tampa-based website Creative Loafing caught up with Kaleigh and her partner, Matt Walker, during quarantine. The passages below are a small portion of that special COVID interview:

Kaleigh Baker and Matt Walker are about as partnered up as you can get. They’re members of the rock quartet Someday Honey. They play duo gigs together. They live as a couple in a rented house in St. Petersburg, where they write and record songs together.

The couple spent the first few days of their under-one-roof quarantine on a cleaning spree, “using a neurotic amount of bleach and ethanol – but not [mixed] together, not together,” Walker said with a chuckle. “We got chemical burns from the first few days.”

Baker, who didn’t sing for eight straight days, misses performing more than Walker, who describes himself as a “hermit by nature.”

“There’s fear involved in not being able to work,” she said. “And I miss playing in front of humans.”

She does have one very specific music goal: “By the time we get out of this, I want to be able to play one rippin’-ass solo on electric guitar.”

During her isolation time, Baker has jotted down stream-of-consciousness lyrical ideas, some of which will turn into songs.

“Musicians at home all day,” she mused. “We’re creative people, but it’s hard with this [virus] stuff going on to find inspiration. You don’t want it to sound manufactured.”

You can connect with Kaleigh Baker and Someday Honey via Facebook and Instagram under one of her many monikers. WARNING: Full disclosure… one may wish to approach her library with caution. Like many of us, you may find yourself inconsolably hooked.

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