Thursday, June 5, 2008

The New Wave of New Grass - Abigail Washburn & The Sparrow Quartet / Ben Sollee

When you talk about the artists taking Bluegrass in new directions you think about musical directions not the directions on a compass. Yes many artists have followings in Europe and the Kreuger Brothers are from Norway, but China is not a country I think of as craving a good banjo tune. Besides can you imagine someone trying to call a Contra dance with Four million participants in Beijing. Well Abigail Washburn (better known for her role in Uncle Earl) has released an album in which sings about China and, on a couple songs, she sings in Chinese. She also toured China and Tibet in 2006 along with the help of three friends. Collectively they are known as the Sparrow Quartet. The people who join her are Casey Driesen (Fiddle), Ben Sollee (Cello) and none other than Bela Fleck on Banjo. Fleck of course has had more success than anyone fusing Bluegrass with World Music, making him a perfect inclusion in the band. This self-titled album is innovative; but more than that it is as beautiful and sincere as any album you will buy this year. It is also evidence of the transcendence of Folk Music. It is music for all folks everywhere. Unlike politics Folk Music does not see borders or color.

Check out the video:

Speaking of the Sparrow Quartet, Ben Sollee will be releasing his excellent solo album Learning to Bend this Tuesday June 10th. Less wordly than the Sparrow Quartet, Sollee mixes Jazz, Classical and Bluegrass to fuse together an eclectic release that will fit nicely in your collection right between The Sparrow Quartet and Uncle Earl. There is a hint of Melancholly in his music and lyrics on this album, especially on the more politically charged songs. But still it has a smooth vibe that makes you want to sit back and listen.

Check out his MySpace Page

and YouTube video below.

This review also appears on Twangville


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