Down home with Abigail Washburn and more
By Jim Caligiuri,
1:52PM, Wed. Jan. 26, 2011
Other women grab the spotlight in the world of Americana, but no one possesses the courageous vision and songwriting virtuosity of Abigail Washburn. The Nashville-based banjo player’s latest, City of Refuge (Rounder), is another jump forward after her work with the Sparrow Quartet, which included Bela Fleck and Ben Sollee.
This time Washburn gets assistance from Bill Frisell, My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel, Decemberist Chris Funk, members of the Old Crow Medicine Show, and Mongolian string band Hanggai to craft an album that looks forwards and backwards. Its progressive folk crackles, sways, and whines, creating a listening experience that’s spellbinding.
Back in my New York City days (can it be nearly 16 years now?), Kate Jacobs was part of a rag-tag bunch of bands and singer-songwriters in a scene that stretched from the Lower East Side to Hoboken. Some, like the Blue Chieftains and the World Famous Blue Jays, put a gritty New York stamp on what they considered country music, but the New Jersey resident was different.
A songwriter with a literary background and pixie-ish voice, she’s back with her first disc in seven years, Home Game. Produced by Dave Schramm, the world’s most under-appreciated guitarist, Jacobs offers up eleven songs that deal with her current status as a mother. It’s all done with a clever wink and an unusually keen eye for detail. Musically, she and her longtime band venture beyond typical singer-songwriter fare to torchy jazz (“A Sligo Lad”), rowdy sing-alongs (“$55 Hotel”), and a twangy lullaby (“Time For Bed”). Recommended for those who like music with brains, heart, and a bit of whimsy.
Pete Anderson will always be known as Dwight Yoakam’s cohort/guitarist/producer, but since being jettisoned from that position in 2003, he’s attempted a solo career with only a fair amount of success. Even Things Up (Little Dog) finds him moving beyond the twang and tackling the blues. A blend of California swing and Memphis soul, it’s a showcase for his varied guitar style, but also displays his ability with blues harp and as a vocalist. Still, instrumentals like “Booker Twine” and “Dogbone Shuffle” stand out for their inventiveness. Too many blues records these days seem like nothing but the same old recycled riffs and tired emotions. Anderson manages to make a disc that skillfully mixes things up allowing for satisfying repeat listens.