Nashville Fiddler Rachel Baiman has released one of the most creatively political album of the year. The release of “Shame” on Free Dirt Records in late May came as a surprise to myself who was only familiar with Rachel’s previous work with 10 String Symphony. Nowhere in that release was there any indication that Ms Baiman was ready to lead the charge in uniting listeners with her progressively subversive songs to question the direction of America’s political climate. Her prior work with Christian Sedelmeyer in 10 String Symphony featured several songs penned by Rachel but the tunes on “Shame” have taken her views on growing up female in Trump America to the forefront. She writes about current issues such as access to healthcare, hypocrisy of religion, the issue of child abuse among others. Her subversive approach, however, is all in the melodies she weaves.The pleasant vocals and simple yet lush arrangements hide the “hooks”just below the surface. There is veiled anger and understated resistance with these powerful topics and Rachel Baiman clearly is aiming at exposing these social ills in an album without aggressive histrionics.
I was very curious and excited to speak with Rachel when she appeared on Nine Volt Heart last weekend. We covered a lot of ground in our chat including her background as the daughter of socially and politically active parents in Chicago, her move to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt and the music career that followed. We discussed the making of “Shame” in Chapel Hill NC with members of Mandolin Orange and MIPSO. I ask Rachel about her role in founding the musician-led resistance group, Folk Fight Back. We end our discussion focused back on the music. She gives insight and context to several tunes on the new disc.
Rachel Baiman plays tonight 9/6 at Club Passim in Cambridge.