Bela Fleck And Abigail Washburn: Tiny Desk Concert

May 11, 2018
Originally published on May 11, 2018 9:34 am

A very pregnant Abigail Washburn points to Bela Fleck at the Tiny Desk and says "and just so you know, this is his fault." I won't spoil the video by telling you his response.

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn are two American musical treasures. This husband-and-wife banjo duo write original tunes steeped in the roots of folk music. Their playing is sweetly paced with melodies interweaving through their intricate, percussive picking all while Abigail soars above it all with her discerning, yearning voice.

Their first tune, "Over the Divide," was written at the height of the Syrian Refugee Crisis. They'd read a story about a Jewish, yodeling, Austrian sheep herder who helped Syrians out of Hungary, through the backroads that likely only sheep herders know.

The second tune, "Bloomin' Rose," is a response to Standing Rock and the Dakota pipeline that is seen as a threat to water and ancient burial grounds. The intensity and thoughtfulness in Bela Fleck's and Abigail Washburn's music is why it will shine for a good long while, the way great folk tunes stay relevant over the ages.

For the third tune, Abigail waddled over to a clogging board. And before she began her rhythmic patter, told us all that "my doctor said that what I'm about to do is ok! I have compression belts and tights on that you can't see." They then launched into "Take Me To Harlan," another one of their songs from their 2017 album Echo In The Valley.

Both Bela and Abigail have come to the Tiny Desk separately in different musical configurations: Bela with Edgar Meyer on bass fiddle and Zakir Hussain on tabla, and Abigail with her band celebrating both American and Chinese traditions. But together they are a timeless power that must be witnessed.

Set List

  • "Over the Divide"
  • "Bloomin' Rose"
  • "Take Me To Harlan"
  • "My Home's Across the Blue Ridge Mountains"

Musicians

Bela Fleck (banjo), Abigail Washburn (vocals, banjo)

Credits

Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Dani Lyman; Production Assistant: Joshua Bote; Photo: Eslah Attar/NPR.

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