Rachel Baiman – Cycles

Written by on June 14, 2021

The music on this wistful yet celebratory album unfolds fluently and confidently over ten illuminating tracks with many telling the stories of women in Rachel Baiman’s family and the relationships between them.

Fiddle music may be her first love but its appearance is muted as more expansive, sonic tones persist alongside slices of country, glimmers of indie pop, and layered folk.  

Emotion and honesty are never far from the surface in her songs.

On the outstanding and gorgeous When You Bloom (Colorado) – a song for her little sister with whom she battled during their childhoods but is now extremely close – the admiration is clear cut. Co-written with her co-producer, Olivia Hally, it has touching and simple lyrics: “You don’t really understand my music / I never understood why you climb walls / But you still come out to see me play / And you know I’ll catch you if ever you fall.”

Raw rejection rears its head by contrast on Hope It Hurts while Ships In the Night yields folky harmonies right out of the Watchhouse (formerly Mandolin Orange) songbook. Her political side emerges on the choice of the powerhouse Rust Belt Fields, written by Slaid Cleaves and Rod Picott, where industrial ghost towns are home to blighted lives. “No one gets a bonus / For bloody knuckles and scars, yeah / No-one remembers your name just for workin’ hard.”

Closing track, The Distance was written with friends Maya de Vitry, and Jenae Fleenor and subtly mixes sadness with hope. “There’s no going back, so we’re just going / Stuck in this track, we just keep on rollin’ / There’s nothing to say, and don’t we know it / We’ve gone the distance, and don’t we show it.” The spiky, bare guitar is the right accompaniment for a lament suggesting it’s easier to stick with what you’ve got, rather than looking into the unknown for something new, a fresh start.

Cycles, recorded in Australia with a mainly female team behind it, is gently absorbing but certainly but retains necessary muscle with assured writing that highlights Baiman’s determination to explore a wider  musical territory.

Mike Ritchie

 


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