Rachel Baiman’s alto voice sounds like a warm wind wrapped in an up-tempo fiddle in many of the songs on her debut solo album Speakeasy Man, released in January.
“I had all this music pent up from my earlier stages that I wanted to get out before I moved on to a different stage,” said Baiman.
The 24-year-old musician has been practicing the art of fiddling since she was in junior high, taking classes with local music teacher Mike Casey.
Baiman started going to professional music camps and workshops to advance her skill while she attended Oak Park and River Forest High School, from which she graduated in 2008.
In the summer of 2010, Rachel and her sister, Becca, started the Oak Park Fiddle Camp, nearly a week-long program where area children, age 5-12, learn traditional and modern bluegrass and old-time and contemporary Celtic fiddle, as well as line and square dancing.
The fiddle camp, by the way, is back again this year and will run from July 21-25.
At Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., her passion for music intertwined with her interest in Scottish culture and history.
“When I went to make the album, I wanted to get Scottish and American players,” said Baiman.
Throughout the album she draws from two essential elements: the bluegrass influence of American traditional music, using the clawhammer banjo, and the rhythmic guitar found in traditional Scottish music.
“They go nicely together,” said Baiman. “Traditional Scottish music is like the older relative of American folk music.”
Baiman merged these sometimes estranged music styles by recording traditional American songs in Scotland with Scottish players and Scottish songs with American players in Nashville.
The song “Anna Jane,” for example, sounds like a hybrid between the two distinct styles. She wrote the song with Nashville-based, five-string fiddle player and composer Christian Sedelmyer,
“The theme of the song is the feeling you get when someone is taking what you want,” said Baiman. “You completely appreciate the person, but you’re jealous of their situation.”
Baiman likens the poetic and lyrical song to Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”
Having established a music career and forging bonds with other talented artists, Rachel said she would advise aspiring young musicians to, “learn to enjoy the ride,” and not feel rushed.
“There is no one path to having a music career. As long as you’re growing musically and trying to play, you’ll probably get where you want to be.”
Baiman will perform at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn on May 1 at 7:30 p.m. Her album is $15, $10 on Bandcamp.