Rachel Barton Pine – Blues Dialogues: Music by Black Composers

blues dialogue

This is one of those albums where you bite into your bottom lip, nod slowly, and whisper, “Oh fuck ya, now that’s the sweet spot.” Most of this album is Rachel just owning the shit out of the violin. She tears into that thing like she’s ripping open a watermelon with her bare hands. Then, on the next track, she’ll have the sensitivity and grace of a baby doe, drunk on sunshine and high on Percocet, carelessly jumping through a green field with a neck as loose as a rubber band. To simply say that Rachel is versatile is to undersell her talent, dedication, and overall badassery. But we’ll get into that. 

Rachel isn’t just good at the violin, she’s downright freaky at it. She started playing at three. Did you get that? Fucking three. You know what I started playing at three? My big toe, and I wasn’t even good at it. She debuted with the Chicago Symphony at ten and was the youngest motherfucker to get that gold at the International J.S. Bach Competition. But, let’s be honest. You’ve heard the precocious young thang story before in the classical game. Babies born instrument-in-hand out the womb is the modus operandi of a classical wizard. So how about this: when she was fourteen she’d doll herself in order to look older and took on gigs to help support her family financially. Heard that one? Didn’t think so. Rachel also likes heavy metal. Naw, just fucking with ya; she actually loves it. Not only does she rock out to shit like Sabbath, Anthrax, Metallica, Pantera, Slayer, Halen, and Megadeth, she even joined a doom metal band Earthen Grave (insert raging guitar solo and headbanging here). Then, to top it all off, she started a foundation to help rep the classical world including all those often forgotten black composers. Thus this fucking album, which is a mix of hard blues all done up classical styles and written entirely by black composers. Now, tell me this doesn’t get you a wee bit excited. 

I dare you to listen to the entirety of the song “Filter” and tell me that this isn’t your jam. It’s just not possible. The shit bleeds blues and technical precision; then, around a buck thirty on the clock, Rachel opens that bitch up like it’s a stick shift ’69 camaro on forgotten desert road. The piece (composed by Daniel Bernard Roumain) asks the player to move the bow “as close to, and as far away from, the bridge as possible”. The effect? A nail-biting tension that sends shivers of pure delight up your spine. Shit is like riding a rollercoaster while getting a back massage: unique, exciting, and hella memorable. When a song can evoke emotions to this degree of severity and contrast, you know it’s doing something right. So, wanna support black composers? This is your jam. Wanna rock out to some perfectly played blues-inspired violin solos? Jump on this shit. If you wanna open up your dome and experience a piece of life you’ve never heard before, Rachel’s the motherfucker that’ll plug you in. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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