Following on from her 2017 debut ‘Shame’, Rachel Baiman is back with a self-produced four-song EP, featuring her live trio and special guests including Molly Tuttle and Josh Oliver.
The EP opens with the deceptively upbeat ‘Tent City’ featuring a hard-driving bluegrass band. Yet, the aforementioned upbeat sound quickly assumes a sombre tone as the lyrics sink in. The heartbreaking tale unfolds from the perspective of a man who has fallen from his comfortable middle-class lifestyle into homelessness and addiction. The strength of Baiman’s lyrics really humanise the individual and provides context to a character that might otherwise be ignored.
‘Thanksgiving’ gives the listener another ironic and insightful view on the national holiday. As Baiman explains:
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, but two years ago in November, the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline was in full swing, and it just got me thinking about how the relationship between indigenous and white people in this country has hardly changed at all over the years. The irony of Thanksgiving being celebrated right as people were being arrested and sprayed with water guns for protecting their right to clean water really hit me and that specific irony inspired this song.
The collection isn’t all introspective and down, however. As the first two sobering tracks are followed by the cheerful John Hartford number ‘Madison Tennessee’.
I’m getting married this year. My fiancé and I recently moved out to Madison and have been fixing up a little cabin on the river. I spend so much time travelling, it’s an amazing feeling to finally put down some roots and work on creating a magical and inspiring space. This Hartford tune makes me feel giddy about home, and for me, that’s what Thanksgiving is all about.
‘Times Like These’, the EPs final track, features guitarist and singer Josh Oliver, another of Baiman’s frequent musical collaborators. Ending on an uplifting note, the song is a testament to the good that gets us through the bad, as Baiman and Oliver sing in emotive harmony.
Open the window and let in the breeze. Darling I need you living in times like these.
‘Thanksgiving’ is an intriguing follow up to ‘Shame’ that allows her a chance to stretch out stylistically moving effortlessly between bluegrass, folk, old-time and country. The bittersweet lyricism she’s become known for conveys the ups and downs that families often feel around the holidays, and is a reminder to all to raise their glass and be grateful for the good times and to spare a thought for the less fortunate out there.
‘Thanksgiving’ is available now on Free Dirt Records.