‘Echo in the Valley’ is the follow up to Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn’s acclaimed, self-titled debut that earned the 2016 Grammy for Best Folk Album. This time around, the mission was to take their double banjo combination of three-finger and clawhammer styles “to the next level,” says Béla.
The results are fascinating, especially considering their strict rules for recording: all sounds must be created by the two of them, the only instruments used are banjos, and they must be able to perform every recorded song live.
Co-written by Fleck and Washburn with wild re-imaginings of Appalachian music, ‘Echo in the Valley’ is a reflection of the times, from the emphatic mantra “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” to “Come All You Coal Miners,” written from the point of view of coal miner advocate Sarah Ogan Gunning. The duo’s front-porch, minimalist aesthetic includes seven banjos between them, from Béla’s 1937 Gibson Mastertone to a banjo ukulele and a massive, restored 1905 upright banjo bass.
With one eye on using the banjo to showcase America’s rich heritage and the other pulling the noble instrument from its most familiar arena into new and unique realms, ‘Echo in the Valley’ is a wildly innovative and beautiful body of art.