Aha Moment: Doc Watson & Abigail Washburn

Feature

Friday, August 15, 2014

Abigail Washburn Abigail Washburn (Joshua Black Wilkins)

Abigail Washburn thought she had her goals set. She was on her way to a legal career in China when a bluegrass song, of all things, stopped her in her tracks. At a party, she heard a recording of Doc Watson singing “Shady Grove,” and she fell in love with the banjo.

“I was struck by it as something that sounded uniquely American. I had this revelation: I just don't know enough about America,” she says. “I love this place China … but I don't know enough about my own country’s roots and culture and traditions.”

So she picked up the banjo herself, and what started off as a hobby turned into a record deal. Since then, she has become one of the foremost practitioners of Americana music, and got married to banjo superstar Béla Fleck. Their album of duets comes out in October 2014.

(Originally aired: October 14, 2011)

    Music Playlist
  1. Ruan (Guitar Version)
    Artist: John Zorn
    Album: Film Works Vii
    Label: Tzadik
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Shady Grove
    Artist: Doc Watson
    Album: The Best Of Doc Watson 1964-1968
    Label: Vanguard Records
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. Song of the Traveling Daughter
    Artist: Abigail Washburn
    Album: Song of the Traveling Daughter
    Label: Nettwerk Records
    Purchase: Amazon
  4. City of Refuge
    Artist: Abigail Washburn
    Album: City of Refuge
    Label: Rounder
    Purchase: Amazon

Contributors:

Michael Raphael

Comments [1]

Bennett from Brooklyn

I listened with interest to you and Ms Washburn –her epiphany at "Shady Grove" and American folkloric history.
I wish to point out that tune is not American. Though Shady Grove has been made into an American classic, it comes from somewhere in old England: "Matty Groves".
While you likely know this, perhaps your listeners do not. I find the old ballad lyrics rich, nuanced, touching, and pretty much better than the American invention. I write you only because Abigail went on a bit about musicology, and in that context it would be nice if you led folks to the root of her fascination, the melody.
Thank you for you great work.
–Bennett

[Webmaster: you should enable the M-dash]

Aug. 18 2014 09:18 PM

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