Abigail Washburn wields two instruments of stark astonishment. The first is her banjo, an 1889 S.S. Stewart open-back model, which she plays in the claw-hammer style. The second is her voice weariness, empathy, sorrow and defiance flooding the edges of its beauty, even when shes singing in Chinese. Washburns mix of old-time music and big-time emotion makes Song the rare acoustic disc that demands high volume. (The buoyant work of cellist Ben Sollee, who tackles both traditional bass lines and bluegrass-style solos, makes you wonder why the original old-time bands didnt use cellos.) Washburns own songs range from the impossibly simple Rockabye Dixie to the Asylum Street Spankers-esque glee of Coffees Cold. With Momma, a song of mother-daughter conflict destined for an anthology somewhere, Washburn discovers within traditional American music the feeling of newness she felt when she plunged into Chinese culture after a semester abroad. With that embrace, even songs such as The Lost Lamb, which Washburn wrote in Chinese, come across with perfect clarity.