Rachel Baiman may be a twenty-something commandeering the Nashville music scene, but she sings like an old soul hopping trains from coast to coast. In her plucky, ambitious rewrite of Andy Irvine's "Never Tire Of The Road," Baiman perfectly captures the cautious optimism of the working (wo)man.
Irvine wrote the song in 1991 as a tribute to folk hero Woody Guthrie, who spent much of his life writing music and fighting as an activist. Guthrie took particular aim at fascism and corporate greed. And those themes really hit home for Baiman.
"It feels like simultaneously a song about touring and being on the road, and being a voice of the people and working for justice" Baiman tells Wide Open Country. She went one step further in personalizing the song, adding her own lyrical twist. Baiman says it helped make the song fit her voice and stay modern.
"The third verse was originally about the IWW, the international workers union that was a big deal in Woodie's time," she says. "I asked my brother who is a union organizer to help me rewrite that part. He gave me one of my favorite lines. 'Alone we beg, but together we demand.'"
Baiman reveals she only later heard Irvine's added live verse, in which he tells all the fascists they're bound to lose. "If only I'd known when I recorded it, I might just have to put that verse back into the song," she says.
A plucky banjo line anchors "Never Tire Of The Road" while Baiman's folksy vocal delivery lands perfectly. Check out the exclusive premiere of the track below.
The 27-year-old Baiman sings and plays well beyond her years. She counts John Hartford among her myriad influences. But her cold-pressed vocal style also sounds reminiscent of alt newcomer Courtney Barnett.
As an instrumentalist, Baiman honed her bluegrass chops on both fiddle and banjo. As a member of fiddle duo 10 String Symphony, Baiman toured internationally and also played for other artists, including Kacey Musgraves.
You can hear all her influences shine through on new solo record Shame, which comes out June 2. Baiman says the songwriting on the album really takes on a new life in the current political climate. As a child, she grew up in a house that embraced social activism. So a music career steeped in the rich tradition of folk activism seems like a natural extension of that upbringing.
Baiman also recently co-founded an organization called Folk Fights Back. The group puts together benefit concerts and awareness events in response to Donald Trump's administration. In other words, she fits right in with a long line of politically charged folk heroes.
"I love the political tradition of folk music, from Woody Guthrie to Tupac," she says. "And my hope is that this record adds another voice to it."
Check out Rachel Baiman on tour this summer and be sure to grab a copy of new album Shame on June 2.