New venue for acoustic club tradition

Abigail Washburn
Abigail Washburn

FOR many years, the Highcliffe Folk and Blues Club in Greystones Road introduced a wealth of acoustic musicians to a Sheffield audience.

And its successor, in the appropriately named Backroom of the pub, now called The Greystones, under the guidance of Thornbridge Brewery, shows every sign of maintaining the tradition.

Next Wednesday sees the arrival of American clawhammer banjo player and singer Abigail Washburn and her band.

Don’t be put off by any preconceptions of banjo players.

This one branches out into alt-country and indie pop and there are hints of oriental influences, no doubt resulting from her living in China for a while. She graduated in East Asian studies, taught immigrants in the States and has worked with earthquake victims in Sichuan.

Born in Illiniois and now based in Nashville, Abigail Washburn has performed and recorded with the old-time bands Uncle Earl and Sparrow Quartet.

She is starting to attract critical acclaim with her latest album, City of Refuge, on which she worked with indie-rock stars and producers, including Tucker Martine who has worked with the Decemberists, Tift Merritt, Spoon and Sufjan Stevens.

She has now formed a solid musical bond with singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Kai Welch, whom she stumbled upon playing keyboards with the Nashville band Tommy and the Whale.

The album deserves to reach new ears, and all the indications are that Sheffield will accept Abigail Washburn and her colleagues in the same open-minded spirit that it gave to the likes of Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlins, The Be Good Tanyas and Old Crow Medicine Show.

Support at The Greystones on Wednesday comes from local boys Dave Woodcock and the Dead Comedians, who have been nominated for best album and best vocalist in the Sheffield Scenester 2011 awards.