The first sound you hear on City of Refuge is not Abigail Washburn’s delicate clawhammer banjo or her tender, aching voice. Instead, her second solo album begins with the sound of laughing and children playing, whom she recorded in 2009 in the Sichuan Province of China for the Shanghai Restoration Project. It’s an apt prelude to her songs about perseverance and compassion, especially considering that the children had been left homeless by a massive earthquake.
When Washburn and her collaborator Kai Welch came into the Paste offices for a session earlier this year, the two defined the art of storytelling, performing a six-song, 45-minute session that featured stories behind many of the songs from her latest album. Check out the entire session, featuring performances in both Chinese and English, in this week’s mPlayer.