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Abigail Washburn Biography

Abigail Washburn Biography

Abigail Washburn is an American clawhammer banjo player and singer. She performs and records as a soloist, as well as with the old-time bands Uncle Earl and Sparrow Quartet. Washburn was born in Evanston, Illinois (near Chicago), and spent her elementary and part of her junior high school years in a suburb of Washington, D.C.. She attended high school in Minnesota, then attended Colorado College, where she was the school's first East Asian studies major. Following this, she spent some time living in China, where she had dreams of being a lawyer (having first visited that nation in 1996). She then spent three years in Vermont before moving to Nashville, Tennessee. In Tennessee, she met KC Groves, one of the founding members of the band Uncle Earl.

She entered a songwriting contest at MerleFest (a bluegrass festival in North Carolina) with her song Rockabye Dixie and won second place, and the attention of the Nettwerk recording label. Her first solo album, entitled Song of the Traveling Daughter, was produced thereafter by Béla Fleck, and includes the playing of Ben Sollee, a Louisville cellist, and Jordan McConnell, the guitarist for the Canadian traditional/soul fusion band The Duhks. Washburn speaks Mandarin, and the recording includes two songs in that language. Washburn returned to China last spring with a group called the Sparrow Quartet, composed of Sollee, Fleck and Grammy-nominated fiddler Casey Driessen, with whom she has recorded an EP. Her decision to buy a banjo came from an experience, she says, in a cafe. She heard Doc Watson singing Shady Grove playing in the background, which inspired her to go out and get the instrument; she also speaks about the way in which her experience in China, and the way in which the Chinese were delving into their own culture lead her to realize how little she knew about her own culture.

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