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World Music CD Reviews World Fusion


By Stacy Meyn
Published September 23, 2005

Song Of The Travelling Daughter

Illinois-born Abigail Washburn was enjoying a tidy career in acappella that took her to Shanghai, where she became enamored of Chinese music. Then she heard Doc Watson’s “Shady Grove” and had to take up banjo. After a stint in old-time string band Uncle Earl, the inventive Washburn noted the similarities and brought the two styles together. Teaming with co-producer Bela Fleck, who provides steel guitar, Washburn’s debut exemplifies what can only be deemed Appalachian/Middle Kingdom songs. Washburn’s mellifluous vocals and clawhammer banjo are embellished with guest performances on cello, upright bass, fiddle, accordion and more. Yet she keeps the presentation simple, singing in English and Chinese, for which Washburn has a knack. The title track is a variation of the Chinese poem “Song Of The Traveling Son.” The universal theme is that of yearning, on tracks entitled “Rockabye Dixie,” “Coffee’s Cold,” “Eve Stole The Apple,” “Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet,” and “Backstep Cindy/Purple Bamboo.” It’s cross-cultural cooperation at least on a small scale—Washburn and several Nashville firebrands toured China last year to warm reception, and three of her songs are being used for a Chinese reality TV show.