Abigail Washburn: Bluegrass goes red
Abigail Washburn is bringing her Chinese banjo get up to Central Park. She combines traditional American bluegrass with Chinese folk song and writes catchy original compositions.
After college and a stint in China, Washburn was headed back to Beijing with the intention of a permanent stay to work as a lawyer. She decided to bring a banjo along as a piece of America. Before taking off, she planned a road trip to Appalachia where she studied bluegrass via the clawhammer banjo. As the story goes, she was then offered a record deal while playing in the hallway at a festival in Kentucky.
In China she’d discovered a world of music that adopted her as its own. The record contract kept her in Nashville but China stayed relevant. She began combining the two art forms in recordings and on stage. She honors both traditions with her band in a series of videos shot in Inner Mongolia and along the Great Wall.
From hillside country Americana to Chinese grandmothers’ yarns, Abigail Washburn’s range and depth is evident. She’ll whisper or wail to fit the song. She collaborates with excellent musicians from her own band and duets with husband Bela Fleck. She has been known to wield the banjo as a diplomatic tool, collaborating with Chinese celebrity musicians and bringing a bit of America to some of the country’s more isolated villages.
Abigail Washburn plays Central Park Summerstage August 11 at 3pm.