Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn at St George’s Bristol

igot Bela-FleckBRISTOL fielded more banjo players than any other venue in the UK on Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn’s tour – 23 of them in all.

And a treat they had on Sunday, as the husband-and-wife duo played a blistering set which ranged from Bela (named for Bartok) playing Bach  to Abby clogging her way through Gospel songs.

Fleck has long been recognised as the  pre-eminent banjo player of the day, working with bluegrass and jazz masters, composing concerti for his instrument, working with African musicians on projects that bring the music of Appalachia into the sounds of the place where the banjo originated.

Abigail’s background is similarly interesting. She majored in Asian studies, is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, and had every intention of working as a lawyer in the far east, until a recording contract caught her unawares.

She plays clawhammer, frailing banjo, he “exercises three fingers” on a resonator. The sound, together or alone, is sensational.

Abby also sings songs from the mountains of the Carolinas and Tennessee, and both used St George’s wonderfully warm acoustic to perform without amplification.

Their two year old son even enjoyed a chace to call out some rhymes for “Bristol” so they could add a local verse to an old song. Someone had even tried telling the Nashville-based visitors that real natives call the city Brissl, which made rhymes even more difficult. But “crystal” won the day.

You might say to your friends “ I drove 80 miles on Sunday to hear two people play the banjo,” and they might roll their eyes and think you barmy.

But a chance to hear Bela and Abigail in the intimacy of St George’s is not one to be missed, at any cost.


Posted in Reviews on .