10 String Symphony10 String Symphony
Album: Weight Of The World
Label: Poppychop
Tracks: 10

What do you get when you combine a 5 string state fiddle champion from Illinois and a classically trained violinist and current touring member of The Jerry Douglas Band? The answer is Rachel Baiman and Christian Sedelmeyer a duo who go by the name of 10 String Symphony. It is a very appropriate name as they both mainly play two 5 string fiddles with a little banjo and some fantastic harmonies.

Weight Of The World is the sophomore release and follow-up to the 2012 self-titled album. It includes ten delicious raw-rootsy tracks of which seven are own compositions and three are interpretations. It has been achieved through the help from fans contributions on a crowdfunding platform which seems to be a current popular alternative option for certain artists to obtain assistance with funding their latest projects.

I am familiar with the dueling/feudin' banjos by Arthur 'Guitar Boogie' Smith from the 50's but never have I come across duelling fiddlers. I am sure it has been done previously in the classical genre and no doubt also in the country and bluegrass fields but this is my first experience. What makes this even more special is they both sing while they fiddle sometimes individually but predominantly singing in harmony.

The tunes remind me of my old afternoon lunch breaks sat in the park with my own thoughts, munching on a baguette while the calming sounds of various instruments could be heard by the students rehearsing at the local college of music and drama through the open window adjacent to the park benches.

Following a reflective sombre start the opening track 'Anna Jane' picks up with Rachel singing lyrics about jealousy for a friend's 'special' friend who is out of reach to the former. It doesn't take long for Christian to join in on vocals and we hear the perfectly suited voices blended together. There's some banjo and interesting bowing and pickin' of the fiddle for this song.

The delicate and gentle fiddle strokes in 'Someone To Be Good For' show how much meticulous detail has been spent on each ones craft. 'Mama, You Been On My Mind' continues with a slightly faster pace to the harmonies. You can definitely here some of Christian’s seasoned classical fiddlin’ for this Bob Dylan vintage.

We hear a little more of Christian's lead vocal on 'I'm Not Lonesome' before the harmonising and lead vocal alternation of verses with lyrics "I'm not lonesome, city hold me near, I'm not lonesome, I could disappear". It sounds like the protagonist might be deceiving themselves by hiding away from the truth in that they might just be... lonely.

'Black Eyed Suzie' is an interesting take on a traditional tune. Delicate banjo pickin', fine fiddle interludes and some extra percussion are displayed. There's a great contemporary version of John Hartford's 'On Christmas Eve' where Christian sings a very nice lead vocal with Rachel joining in on backing and harmony throughout. There's no showboating here just pure raw passion and talent.

'Oscar's Verdict' and the title track continue the fine musicianship and vocals from both. Rachel shows great song-writing quality in all the songs but especially so in the latter with the opening lyrics "seven deadly sins in the book but one that's never been told, that's the one they call regret and it carries the Weight of the World". The lyrics are based on interesting ideas Rachel heard on an audio book she listened to one time on a long journey home.

"Even a stone can love" and "even my banjo cries" are lyrics for the penultimate track "Even A Dog Has Dreams" which are all optimistic ways of thinking. The message here is there can always be a brighter positive side to the coldest, darkest and gloomiest of things. Lyrics and lead vocals are from Christian with the final track 'Shine' telling of someone who has realised that despite life's troubles and difficulties you can come out the other side stronger "only a man who loses himself can truly see through what he's felt that he's left with more than ever".

There is plenty of variety from this mainly reflective collection of compositions that throws up some interesting topics. The artistic musicianship is matched by some strong vocal harmonies and sets 10 String Symphony apart from others which is a refreshing change. Every song is a captivating experience and the album proves that there's not always a need for a multitude of instruments to create an impact.

Craig Parry