The family that picks together sticks together.
Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck have been trading banjo riffs since 2005, when both joined the left-field folk band Sparrow Quartet. Now, after a decade of shared gigs and five years of marriage, the two have announced plans for their first album as a duo.
Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn hits stores on October 7. In contrast with the Sparrow Quartet's 2008 release, which combined bluegrass music with Chinese lyrics and Tibetan influences, the self-titled album will focus on Appalachian murder ballads, gospel tunes, blues and other traditions from the American Bible Belt. The couple's cover of "And I Am Born to Die" pays tribute to the late Doc Watson, who famously recorded the hymn with fiddler Gaither Carlton, while "Pretty Polly" tips its hat to another husband-and-wife duo, E.C. and Orna Ball. Many of the other songs are carryovers from Fleck and Washburn's national tour in 2013, which found the pair traveling the country with their two banjos, a catalog of new tunes and a brand-new addition to the family: 15-month old son Juno Fleck.
Rounder Records, who originally worked with Washburn on her acclaimed solo record, City of Refuge, in 2011, will release the album. Anyone expecting cameos from family friends (and Sparrow Quartet members) like Casey Driessen and Ben Sollee is bound to be disappointed, though, since Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn is strictly a family affair.
"We didn't want any other instruments on there, because we're into this idea that we're banjo players, and that should be enough," Fleck said in a statement. "Sometimes, when you add other instruments, you take away from the ability of the banjo to show all its colors, which are actually quite beautiful."
Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck Tour dates:
September 17 — Derry, New Hampshire, Stockbridge Theater
September 18 — Brownfield, Maine, the Stone Mountain Arts Center
September 20 — Plymouth, New Hampshire, the Flying Monkey
September 21 — North Adams, Massachusetts, FreshGrass
October 3 — Raleigh, North Carolina, Wide Open Bluegrass
October 5 — San Francisco, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
October 12 — Charleston, South Carolina, Southern Ground Music Festival
October 17 — Mobile, Alabama, Saenger Theatre
October 18 — Live Oak, Florida, Magnolia Fest
October 19 — Black Mountain, North Carolina, Lake Eden Arts Festival
October 22 — Markham, Ontario, Flato Markham Theatre
October 23 — Rutland, Vermont, Paramount Theatre
October 24 — Troy, New York, Troy Savings Bank Music Hall
October 25 — Frederick, Maryland, Weinberg Center for the Arts
October 28 — Kutztown, Pennsylvania, Schaeffer Auditorium
October 29 — New York City, Symphony Space
October 30 — Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sanders Theatre
October 31 — Washington, DC, Lisner Auditorium (with Del McCoury & David Grisman)
November 1 — Porland, Maine, Merrill Auditorium (with Del McCoury Band)
November 8 — Nashville, TBA
November 28-29 — San Francisco, SF Jazz Center Miner Auditorium
January 16 — Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Strings Music Festival
January 17 — Grand Junction, Colorado, Avalon Theatre
January 19 — Beaver Creek, Colorado, Vilar Performing Arts Center
January 20 — Durango, Colorado, Community Concert Hall
February 20 — Springfield, Illinois Sangamon Auditorium
February 21 — Naperville, Illinois Wentz Concert Hall
February 22 — Green Bay, Wisconsin, Weidner Center
April 11 — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Lecture Hall
April 12 New Bedford, MA Zeiterion Performing Arts Center