It's simple really. You like Amos Lee? You'll Like Ben Sollee.
I first heard Ben play cello when he was backing Denver bluesman
Otis Taylor, adding a depth and sincerity to Taylor's live
show that was hard to miss. But on his first solo outing, Ben
plays heavyweight as he pens songs about the current political
climate as well as delving into more personal stories along the
way. Learning To Bend is filled with songs weighed down
with one overwhelming theme
that bending under the heavy
weight of something is harder to do at first, but it is the only
way to survive. If something is too strong to bend, it becomes
brittle when tested and snaps. Physics, people. Learning To
Bend is filled with easy-going, sparse tracks that highlight
Sollee's voice, which has grown quite rich in its timbre, and
owes a debt to the aforementioned Amos Lee. "A Few Honest
Words" is sparse protest music at its finest, with light
strings plucking behind Sollee's plea, "Just a few honest
words is all I need/We don't choose our leaders/They choose themselves/tell
me again about democracy." The album delves into a bit jazzier
territory on songs like "How To See The Sun Rise" but
always maintains a strong musical integrity, which I'm sure springs
from Sollee's classical background. As a cellist he has been featured
in some great bands, but really shines on his own songs and brings
an almost G. Love flair for groove to his own songs. Sollee
is a musical chameleon, flitting from style to style effortlessly
the absurdist hootenanny 'grass lyric and feel of "Bury Me
With My Car" and the roving "It's Not Impossible"
nicely offset the loosely stoic classicalism of "I Can't."
The songs on Learning To Bend are beautiful, personal,
even when Sollee bends your ear to his political
ranting it is always in a friendly manner, meant to influence,
not pressure. For anyone looking for a nice summer record filled
with groovy rhythms, brilliant musicianship, and enchanting lyricism,
Learning To Bend is a sure fire winner.
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