First Look: New Ben Sollee Album

 

Out this week on
Thirty Tigers,
Inclusions finds the
roots-cum-classical cellist in superb form.

 

By Lee Zimmerman

It took Ben Sollee a little time to find his footing after
transitioning from the classical environs where he was nurtured. The Kentucky
native began playing cello in fourth grade and much later received his
apprenticeship with the Sparrow Quartet alongside vocalist Abigail Washburn and
the extraordinary Bela Fleck, before breaking out on his own in collaborations
with the likes of Vienna Teng and fellow Kentuckian Daniel Martin Moore. As a
result, Sollee’s second solo album, Inclusions,
carries with it high expectation and his solid reputation, and on both those
scores, it delivers handily.

 

The mixture of folk intent and classical
embellishment creates a new breed of songcraft, one that expands the bounds of
both genres significantly. Cello and strings provide both rhythm and texture,
eschewing traditional rock and folk arrangements in their stead. It follows
then that Sollee’s songs don’t exactly coalesce as instantly infectious pop
songs, but regardless, there’s a gentle embrace and pervasive charm that’s
present throughout. The kinetic yet effervescent strains of “The Globe” and the
skittish yet sprightly pace of “Electrified” offer all the evidence necessary,
but it’s the wistful lyric that accompanies “Bible Belt” that proves the
clincher:

 

“I bought a tux coat
from a secondhand store
  Had a few holes from the man before
  You had a champagne dress
  Bought it at Target ‘cause it cost
less”

 

The song’s evocative imagery and sweet sentiment say all
there is to say about Sollee’s ability to wring nostalgia from his subjects and
plant the listener in a particular time and place. That’s the secret to his
success, and a talent that ought to make that spotlight shine ever brighter on
him in the years to come.

 

 

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