Posted on 7th Dec 2017
Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, the first couple of banjo, are back with Echo in the Valley, a breathtaking follow-up to their acclaimed, self-titled debut that earned them the 2016 Grammy for Best Folk Album.
There’s virtuosity all over the record, from the telepathic chemistry of the instrumentals, to the historical prisms through which they tell their stories. Co-written by the pair, with creative re-imaginings of Appalachian music, Echo in the Valley is a reflection of the times, from the emphatic mantra “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” to “Come All You Coal Miners,” written from the point of view of coal-miner advocate Sarah Ogan Gunning. Other highlights include the rural blues “My Home’s Across the Blue Ridge Mountains” by Clarence Ashley, and a version of Fleck’s beloved “Big Country,” framed by the traditional Appalachian tunes “Sally in the Garden” and “Molly Put the Kettle On.”
Quite apart from Fleck, who has been nominated in more categories than any other instrumentalist in Grammy history, Washburn brings a sophistication and artistry that shines bright. Throughout a career of collaborative and solo work, the cultural ambassador and fluent speaker of Chinese has weaved the sights and sounds of Appalachia, the Far East, and modern America into an ongoing musical (and theatrical) pursuit that has touched the far corners of the globe.