Abigail Washburn is a blonde, blue-eyed banjo player from the Midwest who is obsessed with China, speaks Mandarin and sings in Chinese when she feels like it. That is, when she’s not performing her very contemporary versions of traditional Appalachian-style folk songs, threatening in one to use her shotgun on a lover who has betrayed her. (She ends that song with a wicked smile.)
In this edition of “Quick Hits,” SOUND TRACKS reporter Arun Rath talks with Washburn about how she fell in love with China and how listening to Doc Watson made her fall for bluegrass music. And she performs three songs exclusively for “Quick Hits,” including “City of Refuge,” the title track from her new album.
Don't miss other Quick Hits starring Seun Kuti, Dengue Fever, Charles Bradley & Sharon Jones, Helene Grimaud, Jovanotti, KT Tunstall, Meklit Hadero, Ozomatli, and Seu Jorge. For more info visit Sound Tracks's site.
Abigail Washburn running through the title track from her latest album, “City of Refuge.”
Kush NYC is a Middle Eastern themed lounge in Manhattan that let us sneak in to film before their evening rush started.
For a serious artist, Abby has an irresistible sense of humor and fun. After we broke down the set, we all went out for drinks and karaoke. Abby sang Whitney Houston and Journey, among others.
By a stroke of luck, our sound man Daniel Brooks (to the right of Abby in this photo, wearing headphones) happened to know all about recording banjos. That’s New York for you.
Warming up the Gold Tone cello banjo to perform “Shotgun Blues.”
In a few hours, this space would be filled with hip young New Yorkers grinding to a DJ, but at this moment the disco ball looked a little lonely.
Our director of photography, Sam Shinn, was light on his feet but quiet as a mouse as he moved around to capture Abigail’s energy as she performed.
Abby says she didn’t become a serious student of the banjo until after getting her first record contract.
Next up for Abigail Washburn: a musical tour of the old Silk Road, which will take her from the Far East all the way to the border with Pakistan.
Our slide show features Abigail Washburn with Arun Rath and his Sound Tracks crew setting up for an interview and performance at Kush, a bar-lounge in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
All photos by Carla Parisi and Arun Rath.
Special thanks to Ben Allison and the staff at Kush NYC