Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet symbolize true multiculturalism in an increasingly globalized world. "The Sparrow Quartet was born in China, but composed of musicians trained and raised in the U.S.," says Washburn, who relishes creating music beyond boundaries, hence the quartet's mashup of Chinese melodies and Americana music. "We didn't even think twice about being an unconventional combination of instruments. We got to perceive our banjo [Washburn], banjo [Bela Fleck], cello [Ben Sollee], fiddle [Casey Driessen] combination as a palette of limitations meant to guide our music."
But getting the word out about the band has been a challenge, especially since Americana music magazine No Depression folded in May 2008. ND had been the voice and face of Americana music since 1995, and one of the few sources of information for fans of the broad, almost indefinable genre. With rising production costs, diminished advertising income and decreasing print readership, journalism as a whole has taken a hit. But when No Depression fans spoke up, ND publishers Peter Blackstock and Grant Alden, along with the University of Texas Press, stepped up.
ND returns Oct. 15 as a biannual bookazine. The format is essentially the same, and the writers' bylines are familiar. The subjects still reflect the diversity of Americana, from pop act Hanson to cover story artists Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet.
"I've been reading No Depression for years and often thought that someday I'd be a part of [it]. I love that the Sparrow Quartet fits the bill," she says.