Concerning instruments with gorgeous tones and rich cultural histories, the banjo is often overlooked. And it makes sense to some extent; outside the roots world, banjo is rarely front and center. But when an innovator like Béla Fleck or Alison Brown comes along, it’s a refreshing reminder of banjo’s intrinsic magic.
Brown has bred an impressive legacy of success that stretches back to the early ’80s. Shortly after she was recruited into Alison Krauss’ Union Station, the title track for I’ve Got That Old Feeling won the Grammy for “Best Bluegrass Recording”, the same year Brown’s own album Simple Pleasures scored a nominated for “Best Bluegrass Album”. She co-founded Compass Records in 1995, the label that released Fair Weather in 2000, which earned Brown the “Best Country Instrumental Performance” Grammy for her Béla Fleck collaboration, “Leaving Cottondale”.
But at the turn of the 2010s, after two decades of consistent solo releases, Brown began to focus on production. As such, the last LP we received from Alison Brown was 2015’s The Song of the Banjo. Well, coming up this summer, the five-string phenom returns with the succinctly-titled On Banjo. On Banjo finds Brown and her eponymous quintet trading licks with the likes of The Kronos Quartet, Anat Cohen, Sierra Hull and more. Alongside pleasant surprises like the Steve Martin co-written “Foggy Morning Breakdown”, you’ll also hear more exotic explorations into Brazilian sounds when On Banjo drops May 5th.
Maintaining Brown’s boundary-less repertoire for cross-genre compositions, On Banjo‘s lead single masterfully mashes up The Beatles with Antônio Carlos Jobim for a spring stroll-ready medley, “Sun and Water (Here Comes the Sun/Waters of March)”.