It’s already been a busy year for singer/songwriter/banjo player Abigail Washburn. She had to cancel her January 15 show at The Grey Eagle for an appearance on A Prairie Home Companion. (But that’s okay — she’s rescheduled the Grey Eagle show for Saturday, Feb. 5.)
And then there’s her critically-acclaimed, just-released album, City of Refuge, produced by Tucker Martine and featuring members of My Morning Jacket and The Decemberists. Which is to say, if you caught Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet at LEAF a couple seasons back, well, that was super cool (the band included cellist Ben Sollee, violinist Casey Driessen and Washburn’s then-romantic interest/now-husband banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck), blending all sorts of influences from old time to Tibetan folk music. This album is not that.
A bit about the album: “City of Refuge is something completely different, even for her: a sublime marriage of old-time and indie-pop. ‘This new project, she says, ‘incorporates what would’ve in the beginning of my career seemed like an unexpected move, but now feels like a really natural progression of working with people that reach into other genres and other spaces musically.
“With the exception of old-time fiddler [and Asheville resident] Rayna Gellert—Washburn’s former bandmate in the all-female stringband Uncle Earl—her cast of collaborators is entirely new. Among them are Turtle Island Quartet’s Jeremy Kittell, who arranged the strings and played a small orchestra’s worth of violin and viola parts; My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel (pedal steel and electric guitars); The Decemberists’ Chris Funk (bowed and plucked dulcimer and guitars); atmospheric jazz guitarist Bill Frisell; veteran Nashville studio percussionist Kenny Malone; Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor and Morgan Jahnig (backing vocals); Wu Fei, master of the guzheng (think of it as a Chinese zither); and the Mongolian stringband Hanggai, who managed to contribute ambient throat-singing from halfway around the world.”
You can get a feeling for the new sound with this Tiny Desk Concert from NPR. It’s a charmer.
Or you can just buy a ticket for the Grey Eagle show. 8 p.m., $12 advance/$15 day of show.