Review: Rachel Baiman Shares the State of the Nation and a State of Solace

Rachel Baiman/Common Nation of Sorrow/Signature Sounds
Four Out of Five Stars

Granted, Rachel Baiman has yet to receive the benefits of any sort of well-known and more recognizable status, but the fond embrace of the sweet and gentle songs that inhabit her new album, Common Nation of Sorrow, suggest the familiarity factor may not be so long in coming. While the title alludes to despair and disappointment, the songs themselves are bathed in a cloak of soothing sentiment and a sweet sashay. This is, for the most part, the equivalent of aural invocation—calming, quiet and underscored with sweet assurance. 

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Those impressions are evident early on, from the quiet caress of “Ways of the World,” through the soft sashay of “Old Flame” and the bittersweet reflection of “Bitter.”

Baiman is an affecting artist, and while her songs mostly consist of mellower interludes—albeit with taut observations and critical assessment, she does occasionally offer a slight uptick in tone and tempo. The gentle banjo pluck shared in “Old Songs Never Die” as well as her cover of John Hartford’s song “Self Made Man” makes her upbeat attitude appear both casual and compelling.

Even so, Baiman never offers the impression she’s plying false emotions. There’s a real sincerity within a song like “Lovers and Leavers,” even though the subject seems borne from decided discontent. Likewise, the track that follows, “She Don’t Know What To Sing About Anymore” appears to be the result of frustration and discontent. Still, it’s hard to imagine that Baiman is describing herself. Clearly, she’s easily able to maintain her muse. These songs are touching, tender, and fueled by a certain eager intent. Its title to the contrary, Common Nation of Sorrow is an inspired effort, one that both new fans and old ought to be eager to embrace.

Photo by Natia Cinco / Sacks & Co.

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