Sometimes, an idea just hits you. Maybe you have a longstanding hobby that you want to approach differently. Maybe you just decide you want to have a hobby. But then you get really good about it. That’s pretty much how Berea, Kentucky’s Rainbow Star found herself playing dulcimer. After returning home to Berea and settling in to a tiny home, Star found herself writing song after song — and after nine months, Star developed her very own playing style on the dulcimer. “It’s a simple instrument, a diatonic instrument,” says Star. “But I found a way to make it my own.” Rainbow Star’s “Berea” is a beautiful fruit of that labor.
Berea itself is a college town, a home to the “Other South” — as progressive as it is artistic. Star turned to her fellow Berean Sam Gleaves, a rising folk legend himself, to learn more about folk music and its deep history. Star did a deep dive into her new instrument’s history, where she learned about the music of the late dulcimer legend Jean Ritchie.
In this song, named after her hometown, Star celebrates her family and the town itself. The lyrics take us down Star’s personal journey. We get the sense that she comes from a strong family and that life has caused her to draw upon their support. The video alternates between Star’s home movies and the present, where Star (joined by Gleaves on fiddle) celebrates Berea’s wondrous natural beauty and its wild creativity with exuberant dances and fantastical costumes. As Star’s voice rises in pitch, her dulcimer — sounding like a cross between a banjo and a carefully plucked guitar — anchors the song. “Berea” is simple, but the emotions it contains are not: Rainbow Star’s passionate connection to her hometown will resonate with anyone who’s fallen in love with a place and made it their own.
Rainbow Star’s debut album, Music From The Rainbow Sparkle Palace: Volume I, is available now.