Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Learning to Bend

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Learning to Bend

Article excerpt


Ben Sollee (R.E.D. Distribution, 2008)


Singer-song-writer-cellist Ben Sollee, 24, is at the beginning of what promises to be a very interesting American roots music career. Yes, you read that right--"cellist" and "roots music" in the same sentence. You hear "cello" and you think chamber music? Well, this young Kentuckian wants to change that--and more.

Sollee performs his original tunes seated, astride what his grandfather's friends used to call "that swollen fiddle." He plucks the cello as if finger picking a guitar, keeps the rhythm going with percussive bow chops, and takes off on emotional solo flights that are more like blues guitar than string quartet. And Sollee's soulful tenor voice is an apt vehicle for his melodies, many of which are plainly derived from mountain music and Memphis soul.

This all makes sense considering that Sollee was issued a cello for his elementary school orchestra but learned his first tunes from his father, a rhythm-and-blues guitarist who showed him Motown bass lines. …

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