Banjo Duo Take on Life and Music Together

Sep 7, 2015

It’s not often you hear banjos playing duets.  The distinctive instrument is usually fronting a folk or bluegrass band. 

But when it comes to the music that Abigail Washburn and Béla Fleck perform together, there are no boundaries, no genres.  Before the two began making music together – professionally and personally – they both had solo careers of some note.  Fleck is probably the better-known of the two.  He’s been on the bluegrass and newgrass scene since the late ‘70s, playing with Newgrass Revival, and Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.

Washburn is newer to the scene but plays an older style of music known as clawhammer banjo.  And her first album, called Song of the Traveling Daughter, takes advantage of her fluency in Mandarin Chinese.  The husband and wife team released a duo album last year, called Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn.

"Playing banjo is very serious business. It's fun, but it's serious," says Fleck. Abigail Washburn adds that the banjo is not only beautiful, but the sound of it is "gorgeous, and that's partly because of the way we set up our banjos and the way we believe a banjo sounds beautiful."