Nashville duo 10 String Symphony began as a partnership of mutual admiration– a much-needed creative release valve for Rachel Baiman and Christian Sedelmyer, two 5-string fiddle players and veteran side musicians of the Nashville music scene. Rachel, a former Illinois state fiddle champion in the old time tradition, needed an outlet for her newfound love of songwriting, while Christian, originally a classically trained violinist, now a current touring member of the Jerry Douglas Band, was looking to get in touch with the impetuous spirit of the rock bands he played in before his arrival in Nashville. With the love of the 5-string fiddle and its musical possibilities as a focal point, the band’s mission statement was as clear as it was expansive: Two fiddles. Two Voices. Epic music.
And yet, “Weight of the World,” the band’s latest batch of recordings to be released on Oct. 23rd, is not at all the record one might expect from a duo of seasoned Nashville fiddlers. This is not a record of showboating– no mere polished showcasing of technical virtuosity. Rather, at its core, “Weight of the World” is raw and intimate– a nuanced and patient record with designs to move rather than merely impress its listeners. Through intricate double fiddle or clawhammer banjo/fiddle arrangements, Rachel and Christian’s musical prowess and chemistry is certainly on display for those in the know, but listening deeply reveals that these flourishes are always in service of reaching the listener emotionally. Highlighted is the spiritual earnestness of song-craft, which keeps us perennially returning to the roots of American music.
ALL THINGS MUSIC has described the band’s’ sound as a “new take on old ideas,” a concept and tension that the duo continues to explore throughout “Weight of the World.” This is showcased on songs like “Someone to be Good For,” where a timeless fiddle melody is underscored by Rachel’s acutely personal and lyrically modern take on the search for romantic fulfillment in the midst of brokenness. It is apparent also in the searching harmonies and exploratory fiddle runs of a song like “I’m Not Lonesome”: while the title may hearken back to tradition, Christian’s haunting melodies and searching cadences bespeak of an artist that has spent as much time with Wagner and Pet Sounds era Beach Boys as he has with the Seeger brothers.
And perhaps this is what makes “Weight of the World” such a brave record: It is the soundtrack of a process– a picture of a band striving to maintain the purity of purpose of the American old-time tradition, while simultaneously stretching its limitations with unique arrangements, unflinchingly personal lyrics, and a bravely progressive melodic palette.
“Weight of the World” is a snapshot of an band in midstride– old-souls who are passionately determined to speak to our contemporary moment. From the sounds of it, this is just the beginning.
–James Wilson (Sons of Bill)