Echo in the Valley is the follow up to Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn’s acclaimed, self-titled debut that earned the 2016 Grammy for Best Folk Album. This time around, the mission was to take their double banjo combination of three-finger and clawhammer styles “to the next level and find things to do together that we had not done before,” says Béla. The results are fascinating, especially considering their strict rules for recording: all sounds must be created by the two of them, the only instruments used are banjos, and they must be able to perform every recorded song live. Co-written by Fleck and Washburn with wild 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. The duo’s front-porch, minimalist aesthetic includes seven banjos between them, from Béla’s 1937 Gibson Mastertone to a banjo ukulele and a massive, restored 1905 upright banjo bass. With one eye on using the banjo to showcase America’s rich heritage and the other pulling the noble instrument from its most familiar arena into new and unique realms, Echo in the Valley is a wildly innovative and beautiful body of art.
Echo in the Valley
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn
With one eye on using the banjo to showcase America’s rich heritage and the other pulling the noble instrument from its most familiar arena into new and unique realms, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn’s second album Echo in the Valley is simultaneously familiar and wildly innovative.
“Some of the most interesting things in the world come together in strange and unique ways and show our diversity,” reflects Béla, a fifteen-time Grammy award winner who is often considered the world’s premier banjo player. “The banjo is just one of those things. It’s a great example of how the world can combine things and create surprising hybrids,” a reference to the ancestral African roots of the banjo combining with Scotch-Irish music in Appalachia.
Echo in the Valley is the follow up to Béla and Abigail’s acclaimed, self-titled debut that earned the 2016 Grammy for Best Folk Album. This time around, the mission was to take their double banjo combination of three finger and clawhammer styles “to the next level and find things to do together that we had not done before,” says Béla. “We’re expressing different emotions through past techniques and going to deeper places.” The results are fascinating, especially considering their strict rules for recording: all sounds must be created by the two of them, the only instruments used are banjos (they have seven between them, ranging from a ukulele to an upright bass banjo), and they must be able to perform every recorded song live.
Fleck and Washburn met at a square dance and began playing music together a dozen years ago, beginning with the Sparrow Quartet. They married shortly thereafter and became parents to a cute little tot. They’ve been touring the globe as a duo for years, almost nonstop but for each other’s performances with various other musical iterations: Béla with the likes of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, Chick Corea and Chris Thile, among many others, and Abigail with Wu Fei (a master of the ancient 21-string Chinese zither), The Wu-Force and Uncle Earl.
With the exception of a few restyled traditional tunes, all tracks on Echo in the Valley are originals, and are largely co-written - a different creative approach from their first album, where songs were mostly his or hers.
“This time, we really wanted to truly write together,” Béla adds. “We spent a lot of our time on the lyrics, deciding what we want the songs to communicate, both literally and under the surface.”
Echo in the Valley reflects relevant issues while simultaneously connecting us to our past through wild re-imaginings of traditional pieces. New original tunes range from “Over the Divide,” a song inspired by Hans Breuer, who worked to ferry Syrian refugees to safety, to “Blooming Rose,” inspired by Native American voices and lamenting a continual distancing from nature, and “Don’t Let It Bring You is an emphatic mantra for hard times.
With I don’t wanna cry, cry, cry, oh, “Let it Go” is ultimately about release from the pain of transition, surrendering to growth. The song acknowledges that we must let our children grow up; the concession that youthful innocence will one day give way to adult cares and worries.
Clarence Ashley’s “My Home’s Across the Blue Ridge Mountains” has been turned into a rural blues, and Béla’s well-known piece “Big Country” is framed by the traditional Appalachian tunes “Sally in the Garden” and “Molly Put the Kettle On,” a medley Béla and Abigail performed hundreds of times on stage before recording. “’Big Country’ is one of the most beauty melodies I have ever heard played on the banjo,” says Abigail, who takes the lead on this version.
“Come All You Coal Miners” is the point-of-view of coal-miner advocate Sarah Ogan Gunning, whose passages remain poignant and powerful today. “This song came from a very emotional, mother-driven, daughter-driven, wife-driven place, and there are not many songs throughout history from that perspective, so I am incredibly moved by her,” says Washburn.
As the story goes, Béla was struck by the sound of Mr. Earl Scruggs’ banjo when hearing the Beverly Hillbillies theme song. He got hold of a banjo, took his musical namesakes (Béla for Bartok, Anton for Weburn, Leos for Yanecek) to heart, and has since continuously broken new musical ground with his instrument. Fleck has the distinction of being nominated in more categories than any other instrumentalist in Grammy history, and has brought his banjo through scorching hot newgrass, traditional bluegrass, otherworldly funk, modern jazz, African originals, transatlantic Celtic, and classical realms, with two self-composed banjo concertos to his name (The Impostor and Juno Concerto), with a third one in the works.
Abigail was similarly jolted into life as a banjoist, but for her it was hearing Doc Watson perform “Shady Grove.” “I was proud to discover that I came from a country where you can hear that ancient sound - from Africa, from Scotland, from Ireland – all mixed up in this beautiful new sound, with those ancient tones in it,” Abigail reflects. “The ancient sounds of our culture remind us who we are, and in them, we see a constellation of who we are becoming.”
Washburn has imbued this philosophy in all aspects of her work, from the string band Uncle Earl to her acclaimed solo albums, Song of the Traveling Daughter and City of Refuge, and her semi-autobiographical theatrical work, Post-American Girl, as well as in her musical ambassadorship with China, a country with which she has a long, profound history. Abigail is deftly following in the footsteps of the founding mothers of folk, and has become a prominent voice of old-time in our time while bringing to light those ancient sounds of American and Far East cultures in new and exciting ways.
Béla and Abigail’s creative process on Echo in the Valley is sonically made manifest in the record’s major themes of harmony, empathy and surrender. As Abigail explains, the intense, intimate collaboration that Fleck and Washburn put forward on this project required “a spirit of staying strong, but also a willingness to release into the other’s ideas to create something new,” possibly something bigger and more beautiful than one could do on one’s own.
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn to Release New LP
Echo in the Valley on October 6 (Rounder)
US Tour Dates & Nashville Benefit Shows Announced
Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn are excited to announce Echo in the Valley (October 6 / Rounder), a deep exploration of the complexities of the banjo duet and the follow up to their acclaimed, self-titled debut that earned the 2016 Grammy for Best Folk Album.
Listen to their new song “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” here at [add outlet / link].
“The banjo is a great example of how the world can combine things, and create surprising hybrids,” reflects Béla, a fifteen-time Grammy award winner who is often considered the world’s premier banjo player. “The story of this African instrument and its music coming to the Americas during slavery years, mixing with the other cultures that were here, constantly evolving through the centuries is absolutely fascinating! Without the banjo we wouldn’t have blues, jazz or bluegrass music, to name just a few.”
Co-written by Fleck and Washburn with wild 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.
“That song came from a very emotional, mother-driven, daughter-driven, wife-driven place, and there are not many songs throughout history from that perspective, so I am incredibly moved by her,” says Washburn, a fluent Mandarin speaker and activist known for blending the ancient sounds of America and Far East cultures.
Other highlights on Echo in the Valley are the rural blues “My Home’s Across the Blue Ridge Mountains” by Clarence Ashley and a version of Béla’s well-known piece, “Big Country,” framed by the traditional Appalachian tunes “Sally in the Garden” and “Molly Put the Kettle On.”
As the story goes, Béla and Abigail met at a square dance, started a family and have been touring the world together since 2013. Whether at home, on stage or on record, their deep bond, on top of the way their distinct musical personalities and banjo styles interact, makes theirs a partnership unlike any other on the planet.
The duo’s front-porch, minimalist aesthetic includes seven banjos between them, from Béla’s 1937 Gibson Mastertone to a banjo ukulele and a restored 1905 upright banjo bass. The intense, intimate collaboration on Echo in the Valley required “a spirit of staying strong,” says Abigail, “but also a willingness to release into the other’s ideas to create something new.”
Béla Fleck has the virtuosic, jazz-to-classical ingenuity of an iconic instrumentalist and composer with Bluegrass roots, and the distinction of being nominated in more categories than any other instrumentalist in Grammy history. He has brought the banjo to his standard-setting ensemble Béla Fleck & the Flecktones and a staggeringly broad array of musical experiments, from writing two banjo concerts (The Impostor and Juno Concerto), to exploring the banjo’s African roots with Throw Down Your Heart to duos with Chick Corea and Chris Thile.
Abigail Washburn has the earthy sophistication of a postmodern, old-time singer-songwriter who has drawn critical acclaim for her solo albums. She has also done fascinating work in folk musical diplomacy in China, presented an original theatrical production Post-American Girl, performs in a duo with guhzang master, Wu Fei and is a member of Uncle Earl and The Wu-Force.
Echo in the Valley Tour Dates
Sept 1 Albuquerque, NM Kimotheater
Sept 2 Moab, UT Moab Music Festival
Sept 3 Pagosa Springs, CO Four Corners Folk Festival
Sept 6 Colorado Springs, CO Colorado College
Sept 7 Fort Collins, CO Lincoln Center
Sept 8 Steamboat Springs, CO Strings Music Festival
Sept 28 Raleigh, NC Hosting the IBMA Awards Show
Sept 29 Raleigh, NC Wide Open Bluegrass Festival
Sept 30 Franklin, NC Smokey Mountain Performing Arts Center
Oct 3 Nashville, TN The Basement Circle Round Home benefit for xxx
Oct 4 Nashville, TN Family Wash Circle Round Home benefit for xxx
Oct 5 Nashville, TN 3rd & Lindsley Circle Round Home benefit for Linden Waldorf School
Oct 7 San Francisco, CA Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
Oct 8 Santa Barbara, CA University of California
Oct 12 Live Oak, FL Suwannee Roots Revival
Oct 13 Greensboro, NC Carolina Theatre
Oct 14 Shelby, NC Don Gibson Theatre
Oct 20 St. Louis, MO Sheldon Concert Hall
Oct 21 Lawrence, KS University of Kansas
Oct 28 Louisville, KY KCD Theater
Nov 2 Kent, OH The Kent Stage
Nov 3 Toronto, ONT Danforth Music Hall
Nov 4 Bethel, NY Bethel Woods
Nov 5 Lancaster, PA Franklin & Marshall College
Nov 7 Alexandria, VA The Birchmere
Nov 9 Owings Mills, MD Gordon Center for Performing Arts
Nov 10 Phoenixville, PA The Colonial Theatre
Nov 11 New York, NY Ethical Culture Center
Nov 12 Great Barrington, MA The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center
Nov 14 Montreal, QUE Corona Theatre
Nov 16 Cambridge, MA Harvard University
Nov 17 Portland, ME State Theatre
Nov 18 Keene, NH Colonial Theatre
Nov 19 Plymouth, NH The Flying Monkey Performance Center
Nov 24 Eugene, OR John G. Shedd Institute for the Arta
Nov 25 Seattle, WA The Moore Theatre
Nov 26 Bellingham, WA Mount Baker Theatre
Nov 27 Portland, OR Portland’5 Center the Arts
Nov 29 Arcata, CA Van Duzer Theater
Contact: Carla Parisi at Kid Logic Media, email@example.com
or 973-563-8204 / Regina Joskow at Rounder Records, firstname.lastname@example.org
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn Collaborate with Pilobolus Dance Company
Watch Their Video for “Come All You Coal Miners / Take Me to Harlan”
Premiering Exclusively at Rolling Stone HERE
2018 / 2019 Tour Dates Confirmed
August 23, 2018 – Nashville, TN – Béla Fleck, Abigail Washburn and renowned dance troupe Pilobolus have created their own timely ghost story by pairing two songs off their latest album, Echo in the Valley (Rounder), “Come All You Coal Miners” by Appalachian ballad singer, Sarah Ogan Gunning and the duo’s own “Take Me to Harlan.”
Harlan, Kentucky is an important area for its connection to Appalachian heritage and connection to the struggle for workers’ rights, as told by Gunning, an early 20th century wife of a coal miner. “The dancers watched the movie "Harlan Co.," says Pilobolus producer, Jake McIntyre, who originally had the idea of choreographing Béla and Abigail’s murder ballad, “Shotgun Blues.” “We talked about music and history and movement. We listened to Sarah Ogan Gunning, reallylistened, and the piece started to reveal itself as a ghost story. We had our murder ballad after all.”
Coal mining is the most dangerous work / in our land today / with plenty of dirty slaving work / and very little pay / coal miner won’t you wake up / and open your eyes and see / what the dirty capitalist system / is doing to you and me
The companion song “Take Me to Harlan” celebrates the “profound love that remains in our old home place, despite the pain we might have experienced there,” says Abigail, who simultaneously sings and clogs the tune (her doctor cleared her to perform it at the NPR Tiny Desk in the final month of pregnancy).
“We loved the experience!” says Fleck, who describes their time at Pilobolus’ rural Connecticut studio as “one of those pure exchanges, what you wish all collaborations would be. Everyone is affected by each other, but still retains their individuality.”
Along with the video, Fleck, Washburn and Pilobolus created Echo in the Valley, a 20-minute performance piece that premiered at the American Dance Festival in Durham, NC in 2017.
Béla and Abigail will be on the road in late 2018 and 2019, including a return to Los Angeles December 6 at Royce Hall.
Echo in the Valley Tour Dates
Dec 6 Los Angeles, CA Royce Hall at UCLA
Dec 7 Irvine, CA Irvine Barclay Theatre
Dec 9 Solana Beach, CA Belly Up
Dec 11 Santa Cruz, CA Rio Theater
Dec 12 Sacramento, CA Crest Theatre
Dec 14-16 Berkeley, CA Freight & Salvage
Jan 11 Abingdon, VA January Jams @ Barter Theatre
Jan 13 Charleston, SC Charleston Music Hall
Jan 14 Tallahassee, FL Ruby Diamond Concert Hall @ Florida State University
Jan 16 Chapel Hill, NC University of North Carolina @ Chapel Hill
Jan 18 Hickory, NC Music in the Mill Concert Series
Jan 20 New Albany, OH Schottenstein Theatre
Feb 2 North Little Rock, AR University of Arkansas
Feb 5 Manhattan, KS McCain Auditorium at Kansas State University
Feb 7 Ann Arbor, MI Hill Auditorium
Feb 8 Lafayette, IN Purdue Universiry @ Loeb Playhouse
Feb 9 Grand Rapids, MI St. Cecilia Music Center
April 5 Toms River, NJ Grunin Center
April 6 Barre, VT Opera House
April 9 Brownfield, ME Stone Mountain Arts Center
April 11 Portsmouth, NH Music Hall
April 13 Fairfield, CT Quick Center for the Arts
“Echo in the Valley is to bluegrass as Charlie Parker was to New Orleans in the ’20s: respectful of its roots, untethered in its ambitions and triumphant in bringing it all together.” – Downbeat
"Two of the world’s most accomplished and innovative banjo players happen to be a married couple: Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn. They both push far beyond the bluegrass expectations of their chosen instrument: toward Africa, Asia, jazz and math-rock. Echo in the Valley, their second duet album, is both constrained — only what the duo can play and sing live in real time — and audacious as it traverses a world of possibilities.”
- The New York Times
"As musicians and as songwriters, Fleck and Washburn are predisposed to embrace the entire world — its sounds and its occupants alike. Echo in the Valley ties the many threads of their interests into a work that dazzles without sacrificing a shred of approachability.”
- NPR Music
Carla Parisi at Kid Logic Media
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