A genre-bending cellist and songwriter who combines classical artistry with bluegrass and pop, Sollee has created a unique and infectious take on folk music. His Tiny Desk Concert was an intimate showcase for a talented young musician with a lot to say.
Ben Sollee and his bandmates arrived at the NPR Music offices after a particularly frustrating couple of days on the road. Their van broke down, forcing them to get towed to their next gig in Burlington, Vt. Then, after a long day of repairs and a 10 hour drive to Washington, D.C., it was only logical that Sollee would break the tip off his bow minutes before his Tiny Desk Concert performance. Still, after all that, Sollee brought his trademark positivity and charm, which carried over into his songs.
"In light of the struggles we've been through," Sollee said, "not just us in vans traveling around the country, but people all over the world, this song is for you," and launched into "Hurting," a tune about the search for meaning, loss of innocence and overcoming loneliness.
A genre-bending artist who combines classical artistry with bluegrass and pop, Sollee has created a unique and infectious take on folk music. His distinctively percussive cello sound — a mix of strumming and plucking chords and impressive bow techniques in complicated but danceable polyrhythms — helps set him apart from many folk musicians. And with a voice and lyrical phrasing that recall Paul Simon or Andrew Bird, Sollee is developing both his songcraft and his technical prowess on the cello.
Along with writing his own music, the Louisville, Ky. musician has shared the stage with folk and bluegrass luminaries including Abigail Washburn, Otis Taylor and Bela Fleck. Last year, Sollee teamed with Daniel Martin Moore for Dear Companion, an album produced by fellow Kentuckian Jim James of My Morning Jacket.
Sollee, joined here by drummer Jordan Ellis and violinist and singer Phoebe Hunt, performed songs from his superb new album Inclusions, as well as a new a cappella song worked up during their long trek just for this Tiny Desk Concert. It was an intimate showcase for an exciting young artist with exceptional talent and a lot to say.
- "The Globe"
Filmed and edited by Michael Katzif; audio by Kevin Wait; photo by Mito Habe-Evans/NPR