Less astringent than Gillian Welch but coming from a similar place -- an imaginary zone somewhere between the Civil War and WWI -- Abigail Washburn makes a striking debut with Songs of the Traveling Daughter. Playing clawhammer banjo and singing in a pure, mountain voice of aching beauty that's a dead ringer for the young Emmylou Harris, Washburn (who also plays with the acoustic outfit Uncle Earl) fashions music of spare and haunting delicacy. Her collaborators are well schooled in inventive acoustic music -- unsurprising, given that one of the disc's co-producers is the visionary Béla Fleck, who adds his rich sound signature on National steel and banjo as well. Washburn leans toward a sound that is at once rootsy and progressive, even while it sounds ancient. The album opener, "Sometimes," starts off like a jolly mountain hoedown, but suddenly, between verses, in comes a cello outburst that wouldn't have been out of place on a Beatles record. On the lilting, tender "Rockabye Dixie," the acoustic guitar and steadily plinking banjo are joined in the choruses by a droning accordion chord that suggests a church organ humming in the midst of a lullaby. Emmylou -- or rather her spirit -- is all over "Who's Gonna Shoe," which, given its ethereal mood and classical-folk fusion of cello and banjo, could pass for a Wrecking Ball outtake. The musicians show restraint and a heightened sense of drama, all the better to keep the focus on Washburn's mesmerizing vocals and quirky tales. This one will sneak up on you and stay around for a long, long time.
Performance CreditsAbigail Washburn Primary Artist,Banjo
Béla Fleck Banjo,Steel Guitar
Tim Lauer Accordion,Keyboards
Ben Sollee Cello
Casey Driessen Fiddle
Ryan Hoyle Percussion,Tom-Tom,Djembe,Shaker,finger cymbals
Jordan McConnell Guitar,uillean pipes,Low Whistle
Amanda Kowalski Upright Bass
Technical CreditsBéla Fleck Producer
Reid Scelza Producer
Ben Sollee Arranger
Jordan McConnell Arranger
Abigail Washburn Arranger,Composer,Producer
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the first album I purchased of A. Washburn. I subsequently purchased a second one. The purchases were stimulated by my new interest in Blue Grass. I really like the Chinese language in some of the music. The purchase was made blind but no regrets.
If anyone had ever told me I'd become a Bluegrass fan, I'd have bet a million bucks against it---and lost every penny! This young woman creates music and lyrics that stir my soul and make me hunger for more. She even includes two Chinese tracks, and, although I don't understand a word, they fit...beautifully. Her words are both fun and moving--"Life isn't easy, and truth's a dreadful beauty...." The cello accompaniment adds a depth that draws me in. I am totally dazzled can't wait to hear her in person! This CD will be my Christmas present to everyone this year. What a stunning debut! Thank you, Abigail.
For anyone who loves banjo or folk music. Some of the songs in Chinese, which is different.