Tunesday: Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn – “What’cha Gonna Do”

It’s Tuesday so that means at ilisteniwatch.com, it’s Tunesday! Every Tuesday, we will share a song with you that we love and hope you will too.


You’ve probably heard people say things like this before:

“I’d like to write a book one day.”

“Someday I’m going to learn to play the guitar.”

“I really need to visit the Grand Canyon.”

And you’ve probably been annoyed. Sure, sure, of course you are, of course you need to. And you’ve probably been doubly-annoyed, because you know you’ve thought and said the exact same things yourself, fully aware of your own eye-rolly annoyance.

But, hey… me too!

That’s why it is with great trepidation and grains of salt and extraordinary hedging that I say, I am learning to play the banjo. It’s the first instrument I’ve tried to play since the alto saxophone in eighth grade. I don’t know if I’ll follow through. I don’t know if I’ll stick with it. But I’m giving it a go, and Amanda is too. I’m trying to be quiet about it, though. If it were a big deal, I probably wouldn’t have started. Truly, if it weren’t for the growth of the internet, I probably wouldn’t have started. Ten years ago, could I have ordered an inexpensive, quality banjo with free shipping online, then watched free tutorial videos online? It’s incredible.

Of course, the internet makes lots of things easy to start. If that were the only impetus, I might also be learning to shoot a longbow, or speak Spanish (yep, started and stopped both of those). There also has to be a keen interest. I’ve had at least a passing interest in the banjo for a long time, probably beginning with the manic picking and strumming of Bob Schmidt in Flogging Molly, and continuing with bit appearances by the instrument in various folk rock bands. I think Scott Avett caught my first serious attention, then Willie Watson. I would see them play and think, “I’d like to play an instrument. Why not a banjo?” Not enough to try. Most recently, though, I saw Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn in concert and I fully fell in love with the instrument.

Just watch these two play “What’cha Gonna Do” below, and hear how beautifully their different playing styles blend with each other:

I could drown happily in the music of that minute-long run starting at 2:00. Just wave after picking wave of banjo washing over me.

I’m beginning my banjo journey by learning the clawhammer style (what Abigail plays), but eventually I’d like to try out three-finger picking as well (Béla), and play around with them both. I’d like to, someday I’m going to, I really need to. The book and the Grand Canyon, too, I swear. And soon. Before the land goes under the water.

Read more from Jeremy here and on Twitter: @jereminate.