Cellist and songwriter Ben Sollee sings with a remarkably soulful voice on his debut, Learning to Bend.
Ben Sollee just wants us to get along. On his debut, full-length release, Learning to Bend, the Kentucky-born singer offers an inspired collection of acoustic, folk and jazz-flavored songs, filled with hope and the earnest belief that the world is good.
It's a conviction perhaps best captured on Sollee's heartfelt cover of the Sam Cooke classic "A Change is Gonna Come."
"I really resonate with what he's saying," says Sollee in an interview with NPR's Andrea Seabrook. "It's a belief in the inherent good of human beings. And I share that conviction. And I wanted to take it further. I took it in the direction of trying to find some peace in this world between all of us."
Sollee's own songs on Learning to Bend channel the artists he heard his parents play while growing up — Wilson Pickett, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, Otis Redding — with a touch of the folk recordings he later discovered. Sollee pays tribute to these singers with a remarkably soulful voice of his own and some surprising instrumentation. At the heart of Learning to Bend is Sollee's warm and resonate cello, an instrument he's plucked and bowed since he was a child.
Before releasing his solo debut, Sollee performed and recorded with the Sparrow Quartet, a group that includes banjo player Bela Fleck. He's also worked with Otis Taylor and the Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour. In 2007, he was named one of NPR Music's Top 10 Great Unknown Artists.