5 Songs That Prove Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn are King and Queen of the Banjo

On Feb. 8, Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn will be performing in Purdue’s Loeb Playhouse and there’s a lot of hype. Sure, some have referred to this power couple as the “king and queen of the banjo” (Paste Magazine) and the Recording Academy seems to agree (see: Béla Fleck’s 15 Grammy awards), but can we be certain they’re as good as everyone says they are?

Short answer? Yes.

Long answer? Well, these 5 videos should suffice. Here are the 5 songs that prove that Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn are indeed banjo royalty:

5. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDI3_X73b7Q]

This is one of the more grim tracks off their first album together, but looking below the solid (if a little gruesome) vocals reveals a banjo master at work. Fleck’s powerful percussive plucking creates an ominous effect that perfectly suits the atmosphere created by his partner.

4. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGgmXqJIGY0]

This is another somber song off of their first album, but this specific performance of it got the duo a Grammy nom for Best American Roots Performance. It’s majestic, layered, and just serves to further demonstrate how these two are in a league of their own.

3. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acsybGtzeX4]

This track off their 2017 album, “Echo in the Valley,” was written to counter the chaos of today’s world and features complex banjo melodies mixing with Abigail Washburn’s vocals. There’s a lot going on with this song, but it all comes together that only virtuosos could manage.

2. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiv-2YdXENc]

If you’ve ever wondered what banjo mastery sounded like, this track is a perfect representation. A duet for the ages, this song’s intertwining banjos serve as proof of the mastery Fleck and Washburn have achieved over their careers. There are no vocals here, just two banjos dueling for attention and creating stunning melodies in the process.

1. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfNlkqX7hlc]

Is this cheating? Yes. Does it matter? Just listen!