BY: Z. N. LUPETIN
Monday night — not your typical evening to catch a jaw-flooring performance from an out of town band. I hadn’t planned on writing a review on this Bluegrass Situation presented show but after witnessing the hour-long tour-de-fiddle-force that Nashville’s Rachel Baiman (fiddle, banjo, vocals) and Christian Sedelmyer (mandolin, fiddle, vocals) poured forth at an eerily quiet Mint on Monday night, I had to share a bit about this talented duo.
Rachel, a cherubic former Illinois fiddle champion with a dark sense of humor, seemed to be going on adrenaline after a cold hit her on the road and those of us lucky enough to wander into this free concert witnessed a goose-bump-instigating talent that reminded me of a young Gillian Welch or Joy Williams (Civil Wars). Her partner Christian seemed to match each sway and bow stroke almost symbiotically, shining especially on a few re-imagined John Hartford tunes that showcased the duo’s aggressive, almost discordant, celtic and dare I say punky string-chording experimentations.
This isn’t your grandfather’s bluegrass duo and you can tell that they are enjoying stretching the medium to its seems in songs like “Prettiest Girl” (you can check out a YouTube version of it below).
You rarely see two fiddle players going full steam ahead with no accompaniment but the unusual Monday listening-room silence of the venue (The Mint is known for brasher acts like NOLA’s Rebirth Brass Band coming in a few weeks) was a perfect fit. When each song ended, the two pressed tight into their microphones, savoring the last strains of the harmony – and even the bartenders seemed to be leaning forward breathlessly, awaiting someone to clap first. Their self titled recording aptly demonstrates the power of a spare, tightly-connected acoustic performance that is given room to evolve – for bluegrass fans, the lightning-fast harmonic runs on dueling fiddle is worth the price of admission alone. But it’s the off the road experiments, especially from Christian’s biting bow-strokes that will make future audiences take note.
10 String Symphony will be playing several festivals in the coming months, including The Strawberry Music Festival at Yosemite in August. You can learn more about them (and their upcoming tour dates) at their website 10stringsymphony.com