Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore – Dear Companion

January 01, 1970

(Sub Pop)


Dear Companion tugs on the heartstrings with understated force – a gentle indictment not only
of corporate greed but also the apathy that enables it. The album, the first
collaboration between soulful pop cellist Ben Sollee and neo-folkie Daniel
Martin Moore, has a stated objective: end mountaintop removal mining. For the
uninformed, the environmentally devastating practice involves literally
beheading mountains with tons of explosives to gain fast and cheap access to
coal. It has turned thousands of acres of pristine Southern Appalachian forests
into vast industrial wastelands and left small communities of innocent mountain
folk to deal with the fallout. Both residents of Kentucky, Sollee and Moore see
the ongoing destruction firsthand, so they’ve decided to fight back with song.


Their method, though, features very little finger-pointing
protest. With production help and the occasional reverb-soaked vocal layer from
fellow Kentuckian Jim James of My Morning Jacket, the complementary
singer-songwriters instead weave a narrative of emotional response to adversity
that’s just as much about self-reflection as it is about exposing injustice.


Through mellow chamber folk, mountain-hued blues, and
acoustic soul, the duo mourns surrounding turmoil with harmonies both soothing
and soaring, along with a gospel-driven spirit. The album’s title track is a
cry for help embedded in a storm of banjo, cello and a strong backbeat. Moore
also speaks from the front porch perspective of the marginalized in “Flyrock
Blues” with some delicate rocking chair finger-picking and a soft temper as he
sings: “In West Virginia, the water’s bad, and there ain’t no peace to be had.”
When the mood switches to optimism, Sollee changes the tone to the sunny Motown
bounce of “Try.” The pair also pays homage to the land they are trying to
protect with the backwoods instrumental “Wilson Creek.” 


In “Only a Song,” Sollee looks at his own place in the
situation and admits guilt in his suburban comfort: “I didn’t really grow until
I learned how so many others lived.” The songs chorus proclaims: “This is only
a song, it can’t change the world.”


If more musicians were this honest with themselves that
wouldn’t be true.


Standout Tracks: “Only a Song,” “Flyrock Blues” JEDD FERRIS



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