Written by Erica Andreozzi
A bit numb standing next to one of the most INCREDIBLE CELLISTS and singer/songwriters (his vocals have the warmth of James Taylor and Paul Simon combined) that I’ve EVER SEEN. Even though Ben Sollee is classically trained, he plays the cello in a very eccentric, electrifying way that carves a niche of his own. He ambitiously strings together elements of Celtic, folk, Americana, gypsy jazz, and African percussion to create a grassroots medley that is nothing but generic. This most recent reflection of this has been in his badass “bluegrass without borders” (what I like to call it) project with 4 friends on banjo, violin, bass, and drums that he calls “Ben Sollee and the Kentucky Natives.” Last night at the Swedish American Hall Ben and his buddies broke all boundaries of what is possible and had everyone’s jaws on the floor for most of the set. The coy call-and-response banter back and forth between the different strings had me laughing and howling all at once. You could get a sense of everyone’s personality just by watching them play, and it was obvious that this quintet is bound by more than just strings. I am just so amazed to watch friends doing watch they love and making the world a happier, more patient, more conscientious place because of it. The epic encore of Ben and the Kentucky Natives singing ‘Traveling Mercies‘ with Emily Scott Robinson sure did leave me wanting more. Ben will cease to amaze me with his continued efforts to use music as a weapon against hate and injustice. It’s therefore not a surprise that he’s written songs called “It’s not impossible” and “A change is gonna come.” To Ben, anything can be done, even a tour across the states with a cello strapped to the back of a bicycle (yes, he did that back in 2012). You do not want to miss the chance to see him next time he rolls through town!
*Check out full videos from the night on my YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/eandreoz