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.
Posted in sound
Tagged abigail washburn, americana, banjo, bela fleck, bluegrass, bright morning stars, bring me my queen, city of refuge, clawhammer, folk, friday favorite, music, rounder records, the sparrow quartet
the band... of horses
This Friday Favorite thing hasn’t been nearly as frequent a recurrence as I anticipated, but then again, I suppose I really only had the structure in place in case I needed prompting or a fallback. But I don’t have that problem (if there’s irregularity in posting it’s due to time constraints, not content).
However, the Friday Favorite seemed thoroughly appropriate in this case. Last night, BOH played as part of Live on the Green, a fabulous free outdoor concert series that happens in downtown Nashville every Thursday for six weeks in September and October. They were fantastic, and I haven’t been able to get them out of my head today. I had really fallen in love with Band of Horses upon the release of Infinite Arms earlier this year, but seeing them live was definitely the cement. It’s not just about the organic harmonies or the thundering drums. It’s the earnest vocals, the artful lyrics, the buzzing guitars, the rollicking melodies and infectious rhythms. Band of Horses isn’t Americana or folk or anything, but it’s not just alternative or rock either. Their body of work is easy to listen to, difficult to classify, and highly recommended.
I remember discovering their first album in a record store; I was originally attracted to its cover art. I love the font these use for their name and the present of nature in the designs. Pictured below are the debut and the most recent albums, respectively (click to enlarge):
But of course, they’ve remained on frequent rotation because of their music. Best songs include “The Funeral,” “The Great Salt Lake,” “NW Apt,” and “Factory.” Hear a couple on MySpace, and watch this video:
I chose “The Funeral” to feature because it’s such a marvelous song, and it was also their first big hit. But I suggest taking a minute to watch the video of “Laredo” (the single from Infinite Arms) too. Listen and love, friends.
Posted in sound
Tagged alternative, americana, band of horses, everything all the time, friday favorite, infinite arms, laredo, music, nw apt, seattle, the funeral