The 2016 presidential election and all that has ensued since has been a source of anxiety for a large percentage of Americans, including banjo virtuosos Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn. Now the performers have written something of a mantra for our contentious times.
"Don't Let It Bring You Down" is off the pair's forthcoming album Echo in the Valley. The haunting duet finds Fleck and Washburn weaving spun-silver banjo lines into an ominous tapestry that mirrors the political discord in the months following Donald Trump's election. Washburn's repetition of the title line adds to the track's eerie vibe, while reinforcing a message of hope and resilience.
"'Don’t Let it Bring You Down' is a direct response to the election cycle," Fleck explains. "Not only did I hate what was happening, but we both have very good friends and family who felt the opposite. When the election happened, some us were so shattered we couldn’t function normally. That’s what inspired this song. We can’t let current events take away our hope or our desire to see the world move in a positive direction. And we can’t deny our friends who disagree with us.”
"This song is a mantra for me, a mantra that helps me process the divisiveness of the recent elections and of the way the media represents current events," Washburn adds. "I believe we need to cut through the noise of ratings-driven media and not let it suck us into deeper misunderstandings. We need to keep our heads up, listen with compassion, and find the way through.”
Echo in the Valley is out October 20th via Rounder Records. The album is the follow-up to the pair's 2016 self-titled debut, which marked the first time the musical and life partners recorded an album together. They recorded each of the album's tracks live and played all instruments (all variations on the traditional banjo) themselves.
Fleck and Washburn will embark on an extensive tour supporting the album, with the next show happening tonight in Fort Collins, Colorado.