Alison Brown Announces ON BANJO with "Sun And Water"

Article Contributed by Compass Records | Published on Friday, March 10, 2023

As Amelia Earhart is to aviation, as Julia Child is to the culinary arts, Alison Brown is to the five string banjo. The trailblazing banjo pioneer announces her forthcoming album ‘On Banjo,’ an inventive tapestry of music and culture led by one of the most storied instruments in American music.

‘On Banjo’ is due May 5th via Nashville-based Compass Records, which Brown co-founded. Today, she shares a performance video for the first track “Sun And Water,” which is available everywhere today. The song is an enchanting fusion of The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” and Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Jobim's “Águas de Março."

Watch Brown perform "Sun and Water" here:

“[Sun And Water] was inspired by the stories of the NYC hospitals during the early days of the pandemic that played 'Here Comes The Sun' as they discharged recovering covid patients,” says Brown. "By happy accident, the melody seems made for the banjo. Even better, as I was playing around with it, I discovered that it has a musical kinship with another of my favorite melodies, Jobim’s anthemic 'Waters of March,' so I couldn’t resist weaving them together.”

“Sun And Water” features Brown on her "Julia Belle" low banjo, an instrument she constructed alongside Deering Banjos, which pays tribute to Country Music Hall of Fame musician John Hartford.

‘On Banjo’ nods to Brown’s bluegrass roots as an artist who grew up influenced by banjo icon Earl Scruggs, yet expands the instrument into new territories on songs that combine sounds of Latin, swing-era jazz, Celtic, classical, Brazilian choro, chamber and more. Across ten tracks, she continuously breaks the instruments stereotypes and genre boundaries in some of her most innovative music to date.

‘On Banjo’ was recorded at Compass Sound Studio, Nashville TN and produced by Brown alongside her husband, frequent collaborator and Compass co-founder Garry West. The record features collaborations with GRAMMY Award-winning musician/actor/author Steve Martin, virtuoso mandolinist Sierra Hull, Israeli clarinetist Anat Cohen, multicultural chamber group Kronos Quartet, GRAMMY-winning classical guitarist Sharon Isbin, and fiddle stalwart Stuart Duncan.

“When I think about where the banjo can go, I can’t help but think about where it has been,” adds Brown. “Most people know the banjo from bluegrass music and have heard the enormous influence Earl Scruggs had on the instrument. But many aren’t as aware of the banjo in early jazz or of its immense popularity in late 19th century America. In a twist I find fascinating,during that period the banjo was the parlor instrument of choice for demure, young white women to play with their legs crossed,‘just so.’ All that history before Earl Scruggs ever played a lick!”

Brown is an individualist at heart, and her distinctive voice as a performer blazed a trail for other women playing the instrument. In 1991, she became the first woman to win an IBMA in an instrumental category, creating a seismic shift in the instrument’s and the awards' history; in 2019 she  became the first female 5-string banjoist to be inducted into the American Banjo Hall of Fame Her one-of-a-kind approach makes the banjo feel just as much at home at a high-brow symphony hall as it does at an old-time, back porch picking party.

Brown will make appearances at festivals including MerleFest, Grey Fox, and Freshgrass this year, with more to be announced. For more information on Brown, visit

‘On Banjo’ Tracklist:
Produced by Alison Brown and Garry West

1. Wind the Clock
2. Choro ‘Nuff (with Anat Cohen)
3. Foggy Morning Breaking (with Steve Martin)
4. Sweet Sixteenths (with Sierra Hull)
5. Sun and Water (Here Comes the Sun/Waters of March)
6. Old Shatterhand
7. Regalito (with Sharon Isbin)
8. BanJobim
9. Tall Hog at the Trough (with Stuart Duncan)
10. Porches (with Kronos Quartet)