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Abigail Washburn

Song Of The Traveling Daughter – 2005 (Nettwerk America)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Abigail Washburn

Among all the loosely and imperfectly defined genres that we employ tocategorize and make some sort of sense out of the music we hear and buy, there may be no more difficult music to accurately describe than "old time" music. To many ears, it's confined to the realm of high-energy Appalachian string bands, while to others, it includes the bluesy and occasionally bawdy songs of the likes of Jimmie Rodgers and Charlie Poole. Still others think of bluegrass as being part of old time though, while related, it really isn't.

Abigail Washburn, vocalist and banjo player for the all-female old timeband Uncle Earl, has captured not only by the traditional music culture of her own country but, in the wake of a summer college trip, that of China as well, and both influences resonate continually throughout. She has described herself as being "caught" between cultures, but she ironically - and powerfully - demonstrates here that people all over the world have been writing, singing and playing their own simple, but compelling music on homemade instruments for millennia.

That's about as old time as it gets. Washburn's starkly beautiful vocals and unadorned instrumentation place her squarely in the tradition of American icons such as Ola Belle Reed.