Label: New Rounder
2011 Telluride Bluegrass Festival. I hadn't heard of her, so this didn't really mean much to me. Later, Hoodlums announced she would be doing an in-store performance in March (which I was unable to attend), so I figured I'd further investigate this Abigail Washburn situation. Over the course of my research, I found that (a) she is married to banjo master Béla Fleck, and (b) she released a new album in January called City of Refuge.
I decided to give this a listen. My first impression was that it was that it was a nice, textured, well-written, and well-sung album, but not one that I could listen to often. I found it slightly boring, but, nevertheless, said if I ever saw a copy of it on vinyl, I'd pick it up.
At the TBF merch tent, I saw a copy of City of Refuge on vinyl, and I'm a man of my word.
Needless to say, I've listened to City of Refuge several more times since June, and this is now my favorite album of the year, almost eight months in.
What I like about this album (much of which is co-written with Kai Welch) are Abigail's warm voice, the brilliantly textured music, and the catchy melodies. From the soaring chorus in "City of Refuge," to the backing chorale in "Burn Thru," and especially the gospel-influenced "Divine Bell," once some of these songs get stuck in your head, the only way you can get it out is to listen to a different song on this album.
Musically, it is hard to categorize this. It has elements of bluegrass and folk. It can probably be fairly safely categorized as traditional, but unlike most bluegrass and folk, she strays from the typical American traditions which those genres typically carry on. Her view is more global; she learned Mandarin while living in China in 1996, and at times this record sounds almost like world music.
Where some songs are soaring, others are slow and soothing ("Bring Me My Queen," "Corner Girl," "Dreams Of Nectar," etc.). The instruments are sometimes sparse, and sometimes unite to form an auric river of music. Sometimes banjo pulls all the weight, as is the case with the delicate reverse arpeggios in "Corner Girl;" and sometimes it sits on the sidelines and lets the other instruments do the work. Whichever is the case, the atmosphere is always rich. Aside from the texture, the pacing of this record is excellent, with an excellent and well-timed mix of slow, atmospheric tunes, and the more upbeat toe-tappers.
This record is not for everybody, but if you like to mellow out every now and then, I'd highly recommend it.
|2||City of Refuge||3:42|
|3||Bring Me My Queen||4:14|
|5||Ballad of Treason||3:07|
|9||Dreams of Nectar||5:51|
|11||Bright Morning Stars||4:40|