Cycles – Rachel Baiman (reviewed by T. Bebedor)

I’m going to start this review in reverse order, yes, it’s an odd thing to do but I don’t wish anybody, especially those with an interest in Americana music, to miss the headline – you need to hear Rachel Baiman!

There, said it. 

The chances are, if you keep up to date with those low-key musicians coming out from across the pond, you will already have heard of her, but if you haven’t, I think you’re missing out on something special.

Her music evokes those lazy summer evenings when the sun is going down and the long road ahead seems to be daring you to roll down the windows and twist up the volume for a journey into the unknown.

Americana music is a perfect genre, it’s a bit more aggressive than folk, it happily lacks the whitened teeth and shiny cowboy boots of country but wants its message front and centre and not buried beneath rock solos and ego and it suits Baiman down to the ground. 

Her power lies in her storytelling and her ability to evoke images from such simple musical structures, ‘Rust Belt Fields’ has the feel of depression-era middle America but suits today’s climate so well. The album opens with a quick one-two punch of ‘Cycles’ and ‘Jokes On Me’ that opens the door into a musical mood that grips you from the very first note.

There is very little to dislike, everything is done with patience and class and it punches well above its weight in terms of production and presentation. I think there is a slight nod to Alanis Morrissette in her delivery (especially on ‘Hope It Hurts’ with its straight drum beat on the chorus) and Bon Ivor comes through in moments where intimacy is required, and a lyric can stop you in your tracks.

‘When You Bloom (Colorado)’ is a wonderful song where intricate harmonised vocals float above picked guitar before an ethereal guitar solo takes us into the accusation of “you never understood my music”, well if I don’t understand it, I really flippin’ enjoyed it.

I’ve been sitting on this album for a few weeks now but, like a kid hoarding all the sweets, I realise I need to share it. 

Go and seek this singer songwriter out, she’s rather brill.

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