Abigail Washburn finally makes it to the Grey Eagle

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.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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