Stephen Thompson for NPR – Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn are two of the least complacent musicians around. With skill that can border on otherworldly, both push boundaries, stretching their sound beyond bluegrass, across continents and into everything from prog-rock to Eastern instrumentation. They’re also a married couple, which only enhances the seamlessness of their interplay: Echo in the Valley, their new album together, often sounds like the work of considerably more than two people.
According to the pair’s self-imposed rules for the project, it actually can’t be. Those rules include a banjos-only policy for instrumentation, with no guest players and nothing on record that the two can’t duplicate in a live setting. Echo in the Valley is Fleck and Washburn’s second album as a duo — the first, a self-titled set from 2014, won a Grammy — and it quickly jells into a comforting but inventive swirl of traditional tunes and sweeping originals.