Newgrass City | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Newgrass City

Fleck and Washburn together at the Tower

Abigail Washburn is a clawhammer banjo player. The clawhammer banjo is primarily a down-picking styled banjo as compared to the up AND down style of the classic banjo, which gives her solo sound a backcountry Appalachian vibe but with a modern vocal style.

Bela Fleck is considered one of the most innovative banjo players on the planet. His work with the Flecktones was jazzy and bluegrassy, whereas his output with Chick Corea was propulsive and dizzying as their banjo and piano dueled one another.

Although the banjo is primarily thought of as a bluegrass instrument, Fleck has never been content to lounge about in one genre for too long.

Washburn and Fleck met at a square dance in Nashville where she was dancing and he was performing. By 2007, they were dating and in 2010, they were married. In 2013, their first child was born and they decided to start making music together professionally to "keep the family together."

Their 2014 album, "Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn," combines their two sounds to create something unlike either has done before. With the song, "Railroad," they mashup oldtime traditionals while classing up the joint immensely. Washburn's voice is lovely without embellishment and their picking together creates something one could define as Newgrass, but there is a breadth and depth to the sound that shouldn't be underestimated.

Their 2015 EP, "Banjo Banjo," has a couple new tracks and some live recordings of tracks from their self-titled debut, but the real find on here is a cover of Europe's "The Final Countdown." There is a musicianship to it that gives the original a bit of respect it could sorely use.

Washburn and Fleck live will be a virtuosic display of banjo shenanigans. Those expecting just simply bluegrass will be disappointed, as their sound is something altogether more expansive and exciting. As solo acts and in their older groups, they were always fun to listen to, but together they are impeccable.

Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn

Feb. 11, 7 p.m.

Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St., Bend


About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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