Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ben Sol'ful'ee

We begin again with a note of celebration: I have now officially lived in Cleveland for one year! Labor day marked one year exactly that I worked my job and lived in my house of joy! Hooray! (By the way, that 'note' pun was totally unintentional. Love it? I do!)

This week's featured artist is one I have wanted to introduce you to over and over again, but the time just hasn't been quite right. And honestly, I'm not sure that the time is right now either, but I just can't wait any longer. I simply MUST tell you about him.
His name is Ben Sollee and he is actually a classically-trained, "genre-bending" cellist from Kentucky. I don't know how all of these things happen at once in one person, but I am pretty certain he's the only one of his kind. Probably because he defines his kind. I'd also like to mention he toured with Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck as part of The Sparrow Quartet. This kid is awesome. Read his bio.

What his music sounds like: Jack Johnson, John Mayer, John Legend, Bob Marley, Ray LaMontagne, a one-man-tongue-in-cheek-Avett-upbeat-black-sheep-brothers, Sufjan Stevens, Abigail Washburn ...
He's got vibraphone, bells, violin, cello, drumset, trumpet, harp, mouth harp, fiddle, guitar, banjo ... it's ridiculous. He's ridiculous. Seriously. Seriously ridiculous.

His lyrics are not natural or smooth, sometimes the rhymes are forced (or he gives up on the rhymes completely), but they are honest, transparent, poignant and true. No poetry mostly, but very good prose. On the same album he's ask you if you're "strong enough bend" and then ask you to "bury [him] with [his] car." And as he's grown as an artist [and human] his songwriting has also matured.

Especially in this politically-charged atmosphere (I type this while Obama's speech is happening on t.v.) his song "A Few Honest Words" is a sincere charge from a generation asking politicians to speak straight about the current state of things and to make legitimate, effective decisions. Listen to it and tell me he shouldn't flash-mob all the political conventions and campaigns with it.

If you're gonna' lead my country
If you're gonna' say it's free
Gonna' need a little honesty//
Just a few honest words
It shouldn't be that hard
Just a few honest words
Is all I need//
I don't need no handshake
Or firm look in the eye
Don't tell me what you think I ought to hear ....

I wonder what would happen if someone like Passion Pit did a remix of it actually ... hmmm.
*Edit: After a little bit of research, I found someone actually did remix the song with quotes from Obama's campaign. But I won't give you links, because I don't think they're that good. Passion Pit could do a better job.*

There is an ease and simplicity in his music which would seem to be influenced by his Kentucky roots and an earnestness and frankness in many of his lyrics betraying an East Coast/artistic influence. And he manages the natural conflict of the two cultures and lifestyles so smoothly, probably because they are legitimately, peaceably dwelling within him.

Evenings when you feel generally content, a good Saturday morning cleaning, or a Sunday morning spent sitting is probably when you want most to listen to this music. Take him camping with you. Buy all his albums. Every time I pull him up on my iPod again, I regret not having bought all of his albums at once.

This video is long, as it's the entire NPR Tiny Desk concert, but this is maybe my favorite Tiny Desk they've ever done. The perfect environment/space for it.

P.S. No one comment about the hair ...

Image credit: I don't know, I swiped it from this website.

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