Abigail Washburn is an incredible woman, and she can play banjo like you wouldn’t believe, but that’s just one of a thousand things that make her a fascinating icon in bluegrass/folk music today. She led her whole life planning to be a lawyer in China. Yeah. Then one day, she picked up a banjo. And another day, she played at the International Bluegrass Music Assocation (IBMA) Conference in KY. And then she was an artist. Just like that. And thank goodness for that drastic re-route because the woman’s music is striking and rich, pastoral and elegant. Washburn’s 2005 debut, Songs of a Traveling Daughter, was called sparse and hauntingly beautiful, but her sophomore effort, City of Refuge, released just this week, is full-bodied and warm.
Washburn’s music seems to slip into one’s consciousness from worlds away. The strings’ accompaniment creates a gossamer film over each of her songs, diffusing their radiant luminosity to a gentle golden glow, allowing their harmonies to wash over the listener subtly, graciously. Washburn’s vocals are pleasant and feminine, falling somewhere between Norah Jones and Alison Krauss.
Highlights from City of Refuge include the title track, “Bring Me My Queen,” “Ballad of Treason,” “Last Train,” and “Bright Morning Stars.” I highly recommend listening to a few of these tracks on Abigail’s MySpace and watching this quick interview with Washburn herself about the making of the album:
For my official review of City of Refuge, see my portfolio.