Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn – Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn (2014)

Husband and wife, both stars on the banjo, produce an intimate record of duets, with Washburn singing and both of them playing banjos in various shapes and sizes (cue joke: “What’s the difference between a tenor and a baritone banjo?” “When you throw all the banjos on a fire the baritone will burn for longer.”). And that’s it.

It is a quite charming record – remarkable in a low-key way. Full of fine playing and singing, and with a timeless sound and feel to it. If you’re not a musical historian type then listen to this without peeking at the liner notes and try to sort out which pieces are covers of old folk songs and which are the originals. Most of the time it’s not apparent, so complete is their grasp of the roots of the instrument and it’s trademark style. But they’re also ready, willing and most certainly able to step out of the banjo’s comfort zone with instrumentals that include a pair of pieces by Fleck’s namesake Béla Bartok.

Sonically it’s very intimate sounding – like they’re playing a private show right in your front room (or wherever else you’re listening – you can have them riding in your car with you).

Washburn’s vocals often provide an effective emotional centre. Never more so than on the lovely “Ride To You” where she injects romance and a little sense of forever into the repeating lines “Remember my long brown hair / And the way I loved you everywhere.”

As is so often the case with the best players, this music sounds very simple. But as repeated listens will reveal it isn’t really. It’s just the best make it seem easy.

Forget that it’s the thing worse than a banjo – TWO banjos! – this is a record of quiet excellence and considerable beauty.

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2 thoughts on “Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn – Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn (2014)

  1. I really liked the banjo’s they belong together like strawberries and cream but I’d prefer not to hear the vocals. I chased around to find a instrumental with both of them but found none. I also stumbled on individual stuff from each and alone their banjo’s are not nearly as good as they are together. But hey Bob you know my knowledge of music is poor this is just what I liked … and didn’t.

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