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Issue: May 2011

Ever Farther

Inclusions (Thirsty Tigers)
Ben Sollee

Cellist Ben Sollee has made a pretty big name for himself in his not-so-big hometown of Louisville, Ky., with his interesting blend of pop, folk, classical and R&B music. His name is spreading quickly across the U.S. and beyond, as well.

If Inclusions, his new album set for a May 10 release, is any indication, his ascension won't stall anytime soon. The 12-track album is thematically about human relationships, although in a much deeper way than seems on the surface. This isn't John Mayer drivel; rather, it's an exploration of human emotions and relationships in general, not simply romantic entanglements.

I won't go so far as to call this material profound, but it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, while also being emotional and sonically beautiful. "Close to You" and "The Globe" come at you back to back as pop gems with swells of emotive lyrics and music, whereas the brief "The Hurting" dials things back, but with no less effect.

Along with the cello strains that permeate the album, Sollee's voice is another instrument that makes this collection distinctive. Sollee could easily have been a soul singer in the 1960s, and could have topped the charts regularly on the Motown label.

His songwriting style is oddly diverse; "Bible Belt" meanders along for four-and-a-half minutes and seems to want to move somewhere but never quite makes it. Interestingly, however, its jazzy mystery paves the way perfectly for the upbeat "Captivity," an introspective song about escaping one's presumed destiny and paving a new path.

Sollee's prospects continue to rise with this effort, as he expands his directions and repertoire more and more. Adult alternative audiences will eat this stuff up, and the once unknown name of Ben Sollee looks primed to spread ever farther.

Learn more at bensollee.com.

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