Live Review: Abigail Washburn

26 June, 2012 in Events

Abigail Washburn

Singing, songwriting, Illinois-born, Nashville-based clawhammer banjo player Abigail Washburn brings her unique brand of China-influenced folk to London’s The Lexington


Abigail Washburn
The Lexington, London – Thursday 14 June, 2012

rom a quick glance around the room, we could be in Lexington, Kentucky. The Islington venue is adorned with cattle skulls and chalk boards listing an extensive range of whiskies and beers. The quasi-Americana served as a fitting backdrop to the night’s performances, kicked off by Britain’s Jack Martello with the fingerclicks and rich minimalism of All I Need Is Time. Jack’s voice has a soulfulness reminiscent of Antony & The Johnsons and John Mayer, coupled with a quick-fingered guitar style that echoes Dave Matthews. The ex-economics student was joined onstage by talented guitarist Kev Ward for a rhythmic instrumental. Martello’s rendition of Ain’t No Sunshine was startlingly mature and his combination of technical ability and lyricism ensured a rousing reception to his final songs Reasons and Let It Burn.


Despite being married to world-renowned banjo player Béla Fleck, Washburn has developed her own style with the instrument, combining her American roots with the influences of time spent in China – “from the high mountains of Sichuan to the high mountains of Appalachia”. She opened with sparse solo Nobody’s Fault But Mine, before kicking into the set with fiddle player Ross Holmes, fresh from a tour with Mumford & Sons, and multi-instrumentalist Kai Welch. Welch incorporated his own vocals, guitar, keyboard, and trumpet into the set, often creating looping washes of sound as a background to gospel-style humming, handclapping, and layered harmonies. Keys To The Kingdom sparked a sing-and-click-along, as Welch performed a breathtaking trumpet solo, and Holmes plucked on his fiddle. Even Shotgun Blues and The Divine Bell” managed to be uplifting – in Washburn’s own words, she tempers dark gospel songs with joyful choruses. 


The slightly turgid Bring Me My Queen aside, the high-energy set kept the crowd’s attention, and the trio wrapped up the night with two incredible songs – the fast-paced City Of Refuge from the 2011 album of the same name, followed by a surprise guest appearance by Bangalore-based singer Raghu Dixit. A fusion of American Bright Morning Stars and Hindi Oh Kind Morning Light brought the evening to a stirring close.

Carrie Foulkes

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