A cellist in Louisville: Sollee delivers at Headliners

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By GARY POPP

Singer-songwriter Ben Sollee showed his broad range of musical styles during a stop at Louisville’s Headliners Music Hall in the wake of his recently released album, “Half-Made Man.”

Sollee offered Louisville audiences to two performances at Headliners Oct. 5 and 6, during his national tour.

During the first show, Sollee, dressed in leather boots, dark blue jeans and a sport coat, stepped before the audience and immediately took a seat on an aluminum folding chair in a corner of the stage.

He raised his trademark cello to his chest.

The crowd cheered in anticipation before he plucked the first note from his classical instrument rarely found in pop music.

For the remainder of the show Sollee visited a handful of different music genres – from bluegrass, to R&B, soul, funk and even approached psychedelic.

With only a single accompanying guitarist, Luke Reynolds, and percussionist, Jordan Ellis, on a lean drum kit, Sollee and company had no trouble delivering a full sound. The deep bass that poured from the cello often seemed to vibrate the structural beams in the nearly-packed venue.

Sollee opened the show with “Whole Lot To Give,” the first track of “Half-Made Man.” The catchy tune drew in the crowd, many of whom were already familiar with the new track.

“It is so good to be here in Louisville,” Sollee told the crowd after the first song.

Solllee, a Lexington resident, has previously said Louisville is a special place to him as it is where he first started performing in public while attending the University of Louisville.

Sollee then offered a high-energy rendition of “Something, Somewhere, Sometime,” a song released in 2010 on “Dear Companion” with fellow Kentucky musician Daniel Martin Moore. Unfortunately, Moore did not accompany Sollee on stage during his Louisville shows.

By the end of the track, Sollee had stood from his folding chair and moved to the center of the stage. The crowd roared in response as he held his cello several feet from the ground and wildly whipped the bow across the instrument’s thick strings.

Sollee soon traded the cello for an octave mandolin to perform “DIY,” from his new album. As he rapidly strummed the mandolin, an instrument he has not performed on previous albums, it became clear the 28-year-old was having as much fun as anyone in the building.

When the trio finished the song, Sollee took a moment to remind the audience that “Half-Made Man” was recorded “right here in Louisville.” Of course the crowd burst with satisfaction, as Louisville has all but claimed Sollee as its adopted son.

Over the course of the next several tracks, Sollee returned to the folding chair and cello. Leaving the cellist bow behind, he picked at the strings up and down the neck of the cello with only his fingers.

As Sollee played one of his most popular tracks “It’s Not Impossible,” he was joined by Ellis who left the drum kit to sit atop a speaker box at center stage. Ellis used the palms of his hands and heels of his feet to provide a rhythmic foundation on the sides of the speaker box, which added to Sollee’s soulful vocals and delicate notes.

He closed the show with “Bury Me With My Car,” from 2008’s “Learning To Bend.” The song has fun with America’s fascination with the automobile.

As the show closed, Sollee worked his cello so quickly it almost appeared he was doing it wrong.

But when he is onstage with a cello, it’s a safe bet everything is all right.

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About hoosierhits
The music blog of the News and Tribune, Jeffersonville & New Albany, Ind.

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