Highlights of the McConnell Library Appalachian Music Collection- Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn




A few years ago, I was listening to an album I randomly picked out to play by a band called The Sparrow Quartet.  I knew it was a project that old-time banjoist, Abigail Washburn had put together, but I didn’t know anything else about it at all.  It didn’t take long for me to focus right in on the other banjo though.  I was really fascinated by the way the Scruggs-style player was interacting with the other musicians and really supporting the vocal and old-time banjo.  It was fascinating and as I wondered who the other banjoist was, I decided it had to be Bela Fleck because of some of his musical phrases.  I looked and…. yes indeed, it was, along with Casey Driesen, and Ben Sollee.  It is a fascinating album.

Bela Fleck is undeniably one of the world’s top Scruggs-style players (for lack of a better way of saying it, I mean Bela plays single string and melodic and Celtic and classical and whatever other style he feels like!).  Abigail Washburn is, in my opinion, one old time music’s big name success stories and she is definitely one of my favorite old-time banjo players.  These two have an undeniable riches in musical talent.  They also are amazingly diverse and creative people too- between their respective forays into jazz, classical, old time, bluegrass, electronica (Abigail recorded an electronica project to help raise money for relief from the Sichuan Earthquake in 2008) and a blend of Chinese and old time music that is hard to classify, there is much musical foundation to build upon.   As I mentioned above, I find that the sound of Bela and Abigail playing though is so much more than just the sum of its parts, I can’t help but think all of their many musical projects make this so.  I hear a certain element of “more” when I listen to them together and I attribute that to the fact that it sounds like they are playing “together”- in contrast to playing at the same time.

In 2014 Fleck and Washburn released the first of their albums together, an eponymously  named album I immediately bought for the library’s collection.  Give it a listen or two…


Call Number Status
M1630.18.F54 B45 2014
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