If Rachel Baiman and Christian Sedelmyer performed with acoustic guitars they would still be worth a second listen because their material is so good. In fact they play fiddles – two five-strings, hence their name – and banjo with their only support from occasional percussion and what they do with their instruments makes them special.
You might expect 10 String Symphony to sound real old-timey or even bluegrass and, although they do dip into traditional styles now and again, they mostly don’t. I don’t know if it’s possible to flat-pick a fiddle but that is exactly what one of them seems to be doing a lot of the time. There is one traditional song, ‘Black Eyed Suzie’, and two covers in the set. The first of these is Dylan’s ‘Mama, You Been On My Mind’ which replaces the lazy delivery of the original with a quick, edgy reading that is quite disconcerting. The second is John Hartford’s ‘On Christmas Eve’ on which they really get traditional. It’s a great song, full of timeless images that suit the duo so well.
Most of their songs are written by Rachel Baiman and they’re the kind of songs you want to spend time unpicking. The most obvious one is ‘Oscar’s Verdict’, about the Pistorius trial. The facts are in the public domain and interpretation is easy. The first two songs, ‘Anna Jane’ and ‘Someone To Be Good For’ come from deep within Rachel and, although some lines float the surface, the deeper meanings remain somehow elusive.
Weight Of The World is a knockout album which, with just ten tracks, leaves you wanting more.
Artists’ website: http://www.10stringsymphony.com/
‘Black Eyed Suzie’ live: