Abigail Washburn

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Abigail Washburn
Abigail Washburn 6273170.JPG
Washburn at the Smithsonian Folk Festival, 2014
Background information
Born (1977-11-10) 10 November 1977 (age 37)
Origin Evanston, Illinois
Genres Americana
Old-time music
Instruments Vocals, Clawhammer Banjo
Labels Nettwerk
Associated acts Béla Fleck, The Sparrow Quartet
Website www.abigailwashburn.com

Abigail Washburn (born November 10, 1977) is an American clawhammer banjo player and singer. She performs and records as a soloist, as well as with the old-time bands Uncle Earl and Sparrow Quartet.

Biography[edit]

Washburn was born in Evanston, Illinois,[1] and spent her elementary and part of her junior high school years in a suburb of Washington, D.C.. She attended high school in Minnesota, then attended Colorado College, where she was the school's first East Asian studies major. She learned Chinese during the summers in intensive programs at Middlebury College (Vermont).[2] Following this, she spent some time living in China, where she had dreams of being a lawyer (having first visited that nation in 1996). She then spent three years in Vermont before moving to Nashville, Tennessee.[3]

In Tennessee, she met KC Groves, one of the founding members of the band Uncle Earl, and she went on to spend five years touring with the band. The "all G'earl" group has released two records on the Rounder Records record label, She Waits for the Night (2005) and Waterloo, TN (2007), which was produced by John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin.

Washburn entered a songwriting contest at MerleFest (a bluegrass music festival in North Carolina), winning second place for her song "Rockabye Dixie", and gaining the attention of the Nettwerk record label.

Her first solo album, Song of the Traveling Daughter, was produced by Béla Fleck and features Ben Sollee, a cellist, and Jordan McConnell, guitarist for the Canadian traditional and soul music fusion band The Duhks. Two songs were recorded in the Mandarin Chinese language, which she learned while living in China.

In 2005, Washburn returned to China with a group called the Sparrow Quartet, composed of Sollee, Fleck and Grammy Award nominated fiddler Casey Driessen. The group then recorded an EP, Abigail Washburn The Sparrow Quartet.

At the request of the U.S. government, the Sparrow Quartet toured Tibet in 2006—something no other American band had done—and performed in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics.[4] Also in 2008, Washburn was a teacher of American folk music in Sichuan University for six weeks, "where they promptly told me that I wasn't teaching folk music correctly, because, surely there would be a correct way to do hand gestures for every song."[2] Also that year, Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet recorded a full-length album, Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet. It was produced by Béla Fleck and composed and arranged by the foursome.

Abby Washburn at Merlefest 2007

After the release of the album, Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet turned their attention to touring North America, with appearances at festivals including New Orleans Jazz & Heritage, MerleFest, Bonnaroo Music Festival, Vancouver Folk Festival and others. They returned to China for performances during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The quartet was later featured on National Geographic Live and, in 2009, each participated in the Clearwater Concert, a benefit concert in honor of Pete Seeger's 90th birthday that featured many of the world's most well-known musicians.[5]

Inspired by a 2008 volunteer experience for Sichuan Quake Relief in China, Abigail joined forces with Shanghai Restoration Project's David Liang in March 2009 to create Afterquake. The benefit EP (a portion of each sale benefits Sichuan Quake Relief) was released on May 12, 2009, the first anniversary of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. Over the course of two weeks, Washburn & Liang recorded and produced the entire project, which features electronic mixes of student voices and sounds from the disaster zone, in Sichuan, China.

In early 2010, Washburn began recording her second solo album with producer Tucker Martine and collaborator Kai Welch.[6]

Washburn embarked upon "The Silk Road Tour" with her band "The Village" from Hohhot to Ürümqi, stopping to perform and collaborate all along the way with only the goal of building bridges and dissolving difference by communing in good music. Supported by the US Embassy and the Chinese International Center for Exchange, they performed extensively at schools, universities & theaters, and spontaneously on city walls and in town squares all across China’s “Wild West”. They also collaborated with local musicians all along the route including Han Chinese, Mongolian, Tibetan, Hui and Uyghur musicians. The journey was chronicled in a series of videos available to view on YouTube.

In September 2012, she will be featured in a campaign called "30 Songs / 30 Days" to support Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, a multi-platform media project inspired by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book.[7]

During the Spring of 2013, Washburn debuted her first theatrical production Post-American Girl, at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater March 28 – 30 as part of New York Voices, the venue’s popular commission series designed to help musicians make the leap from songwriting and performance to theatrical production. Washburn’s new stage piece was about an American girl coming-of-age in a swiftly changing global order. It featured folk arts of China and Appalachia in shadow puppetry, sacred harp song, traditional music as well as new compositions. The production included Chinese Theatre Works’ Kuang Yu Fong (founder and Master Vocalist); Stephen Kaplin (Puppeteer & Set Design); composer, violinist and violist Jeremy Kittel; Chinese percussion master Tian Gang; cellist Tristan Clarridge and Guzheng master Wang Jungling. Post-American Girl was directed by Meiyin Wang, Associate Artistic Producer of The Public’s Under The Radar.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Washburn is married to banjo player Béla Fleck. Washburn first met Fleck in Nashville at a square dance where she was dancing and he was playing.[9] In August 2007, Washburn was reported as being the "girlfriend" of Fleck.[10] In May 2009, the Bluegrass Intelligencer website satirized the union, with Driessen joking that the couple promised a "male heir" who will be the "Holy Banjo Emperor".[11] In February 2010, The Aspen Times reported that Washburn was Fleck's wife.[12] On Sunday May 19, 2013, Washburn gave birth in Nashville to their baby, a boy named Juno Fleck. [13]

Discography[edit]

Title Album details Peak chart positions
US Grass US US Heat US Folk
Song of the Traveling Daughter
  • Release date: August 2, 2005
  • Label: Nettwerk Records
3
City of Refuge
  • Release date: January 11, 2011
  • Label: New Rounder
2 9
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn
(with Béla Fleck)
  • Release date: October 7, 2014
  • Label: New Rounder
1 118 3 8
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Afterquake Music[edit]

  • Afterquake EP (2009)

The Sparrow Quartet[edit]

  • The Sparrow Quartet EP (2006)
  • Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet (2008)

Uncle Earl[edit]

  • She Waits for Night (2005)
  • Waterloo, Tennessee (2007)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kot, Greg (2012-10-12). "Abigail Washburn scales her own personal wall of China". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  2. ^ a b "NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert: Abigail Washburn". 
  3. ^ Holland, Roger (21 October 2005). "Song of the Traveling Clawhammer Banjo Player". PopMatters.com. Retrieved 2009-01-06. 
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ "Abigail Washburn Biography". Archived from the original on July 3, 2008. Retrieved January 1, 2013. 
  6. ^ Melzer, Ashley. "Shakori's collaborative energy | Music Feature | Independent Weekly". Indyweek.com. Retrieved 2012-09-17. 
  7. ^ "30 Songs / 30 Days for Half the Sky | Half The Sky". Halftheskymovement.org. 2012-08-30. Retrieved 2012-09-17. 
  8. ^ "Abigail Washburn". Abigail Washburn. Retrieved 2014-07-16. 
  9. ^ Laskowski, Christine (July 8, 2010). "American Roots & a Love for China: Abigail Washburn Returns". Blog. The Beijinger. Archived from the original on 8 November 2010. Retrieved December 10, 2010. 
  10. ^ Stowe, Stacey (August 5, 2007). "Erin Torneo and Sascha Paladino". The New York Times. Retrieved December 10, 2010. The band, consisting of the bridegroom's half brothers, Louie Fleck and Béla Fleck; the bridegroom's father, Joe Paladino; and Abigail Washburn, Béla Fleck's girlfriend, performed "Two of Us" by the Beatles. 
  11. ^ Editor (May 28, 2009). "Strategic Marriage Will Consolidate Power Within Single Banjo Sovereignty: Fleck, Washburn promise male heir, Holy Banjo Emperor". Bluegrass Intelligencer. Nashville: bluegrassintelligencer.com. Archived from the original on 28 October 2010. Retrieved December 10, 2010. 
  12. ^ Oksenhorn, Stewart (February 4, 2010). "Banjoist Béla Fleck brings his Africa Project to Aspen". The Aspen Times (Swift Communications). Retrieved December 10, 2010. A year ago, Fleck appeared in Aspen as a member of the Sparrow Quartet, an ensemble led by fellow banjoist (and Fleck's girlfriend at the time, now his wife) Abigail Washburn that mixed Chinese folk songs, Appalachian gospel tunes, blues and more. 
  13. ^ Watts, Cindy (May 22, 2013). "Bela Fleck, Abigail Washburn welcome baby boy". The Tennessean. Gannett. Retrieved May 23, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Listening[edit]