Ben Sollee Exposes Classical Orchestra Sounds With Modern Twist

Ben Sollee Exposes Classical Orchestra Sounds With Modern Twist


ben-soleeBen Sollee- he’s the guy you either loath for being a crunchy, tree-hugging, extremely charity loving person or you’re one of him. Somehow though, he seems to show an unpretencious personality that is embarrassingly charming.. just look at that face. But whether he still irks you in that snobbish world loving guy, he’s still has undeniable talent. Sollee is a beautiful cello player who mixes bluegrass, folk, and jazz together with the combination of his sultry instrumental talent and his smooth-smokey vocals. He first made headlines (on NPR’s “Top Ten Unknown Artists of the Year”) with his 2008 album, Learning to Bend. 

Learning to Bend features the top five of Sollee’s most listened to and liked tracks including: Change is Gonna Come and Prettiest Tree on the Mountain. The album has an irresistable charm with its simply composed songs. The songs put Sollee’s cellist talents to the top with his various fingerpicking, strumming and other techniques. Sollee’s elegant playing promotes a happy feeling to go along with the album, instead of the usual depressing tones that are at the forefront of every folk/jazz album.

The little known, but greatly (not money wise, but quality wise) success of Learning to Bend may have created Sollee’s unknown factor becuase of its release in 2008, with nothing from his more recent albums topping it. No matter what it is that’s keeping Sollee a hidden artist, something needs to change. His glamorous cello talent should bring him fame. Sollee often ditches a car (yes, aggravating) and instead chooses a bike to ride around town with his cello strapped on his back, which may be the cause of the closeness between the two.

In 2010, Ben Sollee made a collaborative album with Daniel Martin Moore and Yim Yames titled Dear Companion. All three take turns singing, while Sollee features his cello on every track. This album though, is a more somber one than Sollee’s solo Learning to Bend. Dear Companion  has more of a Kentucky centered vibe (Sollee’s birthplace) rather than a jazzy background. Dear Companion is reminicent of a Horse Feather’s-like-sound, but at least Sollee has one song that sounds different than the others, Needn’t Say a Thing. Nothing extremely noteworthy from this album though, I’d like to blame Moore and Yames, but fans of theirs would blame Benny.

Ben Sollee’s next album that came out in 2011, Inclusions, is a mix from his two previous albums, combining his upbeat tempos, but unfortunately it seems as though Sollee was influenced too much by this collaborators in 2010. Inclusions has a little too much banjo to be called jazz, but some of the songs stick to his original sound. Close to You is the album’s best song that has a circus-like sound with the most intriguing background to Sollee’s vocals. Huddle on the Rooftop, however has the raw, folky sound that Sollee taps into a little bit with every song.

Sollee takes orchestral arrangements and plugs them into amps to create a vintage rock feel in the album Half Made Man. Sollee does a bit of genre jumping, but the album features Sollee’s professional training, while also exposing his creative passion for new sounds. Half Made Man is a balance between Solle’s usual upbeat folk/jazz arrangements and a new found “rock.” As always, Sollee shows his sensitivity with his lyrics varying from a positive outlook on just about everything, and placing himself in someone else’s situation.

Ben Sollee fuses his professional training as a classical cello player with a creative, progressive sound that beautifully blends together. After this though, you have a harder decision to make that previously stated (liking him or hating him). The debate should now be between whether or not you like him, or love him.