Ben Solee — Half Made Man (2012)


Ben Sollee

Ben Sollee — Half Made Man
•   His music incorporates banjo, guitar, and mandolin along with percussion and unusual cello techniques to create a unique sound. His songs exhibit a mix of folk, bluegrass, jazz, and R&B elements. Sollee has also composed longer instrumental pieces for dance ensembles.
Born: November 28, 1983
Birth name: Benjamin Croft Sollee
Location: Lexington, Kentucky ~ Louisville
Styles: Neo-Traditional Folk/Contemporary Singer/Songwriter/Roots Rock
Album release: September 25, 2012
Record Label: Tin Ear Records
Duration:     35:55
01. Whole Lot to Give     (2:51)
02. The Healer     (3:05)
03. DIY     (3:02)
04. Roam in the Dark     (2:54)
05. Unfinished     (3:39)
06. Get Off Your Knees     (3:22)
07. Slow Down     (3:08)
08. The Maestro     (4:50)
09. The Pursuit of Happiness     (5:10)
10. Some Lovin'     (3:56)
• 2012    Top Heatseekers      #26
• Katie Benson  Coordination, Development
• Carl Broemel  Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Electric), Pedal Steel, Pedal Steel Guitar
• Jordan Ellis  Drums, Handclapping, Percussion 
• Matt Hickey  Booking
• Jonathan Horn  Legal Counsel
• Jeremy Kittel  Viola, Violin
• Magnus Lindqvist  Photography
• Gavin Lurssen  Mastering
• Kevin Ratterman  Engineer, Mixing
• Crissa Requate  Publicity
• Alana Rocklin  Bass (Electric), Bass (Upright), Fretless Bass, MIDI Bass
• Logan Rogers  Additional Production
• Carly Schnurr  Artwork, Design
• Mark Scribner  Management
• Ben Sollee  Composer, Primary Artist, Producer
• Abigail Washburn  Guest Artist, Vocals
• Chris Witzke  Photography
Editorial Reviews:
• Musicians often claim they are giving themselves to their listeners, but it s rarely as true as on Ben Sollee s fourth album, Half-Made Man, a revealing, deeply moving album that explores a man trying to figure himself out, just as we all are. Known for his thrilling cello-playing that incorporates new techniques to create a unique mix of folk, bluegrass, jazz and R&B, Sollee possesses rough-smooth-smoky vocal stylings and a knack for intricate arrangements that has brought about comparisons to Sufjan Stevens. Sollee shares himself completely with his audience, whether it be by personal lyrics, or his commitment to the environment. Sollee can often be found riding a bicycle to his concerts (cello strapped to the back), which have become legendary for their intimacy.
• Through it all, Sollee has garnered a rabid following of listeners devoted to his music. • They will be greatly pleased with this, his most personal and adventurous album yet. • The songs give us the many facets of a human being who is acutely aware of the world around him and his own faults. The album is novelistic in its scope and theme as we travel with the narrator who reveals everything about himself as a father, a spouse, a musician, and more. We are along for the ride as the narrator sings of selfishness, joy, impatience, romance...being human.
• With Half-Made Man, a record of raw power, grace, and wisdom, Sollee is sure to be measured alongside the best artists of his generation.

• earache!
• Half Made Man
• Humanistic transitions and understanding from Ben Sollee
• By Jim Caligiuri, 1:27PM, Wed. Oct. 31
• With a new album and a two-piece band in tow, Kentucky cellist Ben Sollee arrives at the Cactus Cafe on Saturday night, Nov. 3. Half Made Man, his fourth disc, arrives as both a quick follow-up to last year's Inclusions and perhaps his most straightforward work yet.
• “I think more than anything it’s good to have a work cycle,” says Sollee from his home in Louisville. “I watched a documentary on Woody Allen, and by no means is this a comparison, but he always wants to keep working. He found that the only way to get better doing what he did was to do it, creating.”
• “In a lot of ways, I think it’s good for me to just keep creating.”
• Taking the advice of hometown friend Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Sollee tried a different way of recording this new batch of songs. Instead of building tracks in the studio, he hired a band and recorded everything live. The results close in on what he’s able to accomplish onstage. The raw aspect of his live performances shines on Half Made Man.
• The goal wasn't to capture the definitive track, but capturing a really compelling performance of the song,” he claims. “To that end, we recorded everything that happened in the studio. We didn’t have a first take policy. We wanted to make music that felt right.”
• The engineer, Kevin Ratterman, described it as being in the Star Chamber. It might be a Star Trek reference, some celestial thing, I don’t know. But we understood what he meant.”
• Like most singer-songwriters Sollee writes about what’s in front of him. Only 28, he chose his new album's title carefully.
• “I’m transitioning from things that I thought I was going to be into the things that I am,” he explains. “I thought it would be interesting to document that – as a musician, as a father, as a human, as an activist, as a husband.”
• “All those things make a transitional kind of life and the human side of it is that I started off making very explicit social statements in my music. I felt this urgency to change the world.”
• “I’ve since grown to be a little more humanistic and understand that where things are really happening are on a human to human level.”
• Renowned for his environmental awareness, Sollee drew recognition for a couple of tours accomplished by bicycle, including one year’s trip to Bonnaroo. There’s a van involved this time. Tackling the wide open spaces of Texas is difficult with a cello on your back.
• Nevertheless, he’s offering a $5 voucher at his merch table to anyone who gets to his gig by bike, on foot, or takes public transportation.
• Fortaken:
Review By Amanda Koellner on October 5th, 2012 / Our rating: ***
• The producer on Ben Sollee’s sophomore album, a collaboration with Daniel Martin Moore titled Dear Companion, was the king of My Morning Jacket, Jim James. The producer on Ben Sollee’s most recent effort, Half Made Man, was Ben Sollee. “If you want something bad enough, you gotta do it yourself,” he sings on “DIY”, an energetic alt-country track that embodies the idea behind this PledgeMusic-campaign-funded, self-produced album, of which he says, “each song is its own portrait of a piece or a part of me.”
• The subject matter populating Sollee’s folky, autobiographical canvas include his desire to fix things on “The Healer”, the side of him that “wants to just like, bust through the walls and be the rebel” on “Get Off Your Knees”, and the “more moderated side that wants to dedicate his life to a simpler art form” on “the Maestro”. What could be the title track,  “Unfinished” finds Sollee earnestly howling, “Don’t you know that I am not finished/ Yes, I am a half-made man/ And I need your forgiveness to feel whole again.”
• A dream team of collaborators round out this self-reflecting, ten-song collection, including former STS9 bassist Alana Rocklin and My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel, whose riffs wail on “Pursuit of Happiness”’s soulful, Southern rock (Sollee played cello on Circuital and has toured with James). Sollee provides the sounds of the octave mandolin, guitar, and his signature cello, which weaves around just about everything, even illiciting feel-good foot-tapping on album opener “Whole Lot To Give”.
• “I didn’t go with a record label or anything like that because all it takes these days is a direct relationship with your audience, and that’s what it’s all about,” Sollee said in an interview. Half Made Man refreshingly proves that connecting with your audience and collaborating with talented friends can make for a good blueprint.
• Essential Tracks: “Whole Lot To Give”, “Pursuit of Happiness”
• Fortaken:

 ‘Tuned In’ review: Ben Sollee’s ‘Half Made Man’ almost adds up
• By Chuck Campbell
• Posted October 30, 2012 at 11:41 a.m.
• Ben Sollee has a voice both offbeat and soulful, a rare and appealing combination, plus he has stellar instrumental and lyrical skills. However, his new “Half Made Man” doesn’t have those intangible moments that elevate the release from a solid album to a special one.
• The native of Lexington, Ky., has a few missteps, most of them seemingly driven by ambition. For instance, his quirky delivery doesn’t suit the melodrama of the ballad “The Maestro,” and his unconventional cadence shifts — especially on “DIY,” “Unfinished” and “Get Off Your Knees” — lead to clunky passages.
• Yet those seem like afterthoughts considering what he accomplishes on the genre-defying “Half Made Man,” a place where pop, folk, rock, jazz, blues, country, R&B and Americana intermingle at the behest of Sollee’s cello and notes from other musicians playing pedal steel, violin, upright bass and more. If Sollee is a half-made man, he could be a Frankenstein’s monster made from parts of Elvis Costello, Randy Newman, Bruce Springsteen and the guys from Tears for Fears.
• There’s an organic, sunny feel in “The Healer” (featuring guest vocals by Abigail Washburn), modern pop-rockabilly in “DIY” and dusty soul in a “Pursuit of Happiness” that suggests joy comes at a price (“I want it as bad as you do, I just ain’t willing to take it from somebody else.”)
• Thematically, Sollee swings from the intimate ballad “Roam in the Dark” (“Changing my ways to get away from the noise, ’cause I want to be here with you.”) to the electric political bent of “Get Off Your Knees” (“Here’s a towel for your bleeding heart, please get off my rug”). And fitting for a release that raises more issues than it solves, “Half Made Man” closes with, “When you figure it out, bring some lovin’ back to me.”
• Sollee’s journey is consistently intriguing, and his lyrical notions and passionate creativity will keep listeners hanging around. But he comes up short of an obvious payoff, a track where it all comes together with a memorable, rewarding denouement.
• At least “Half Made Man” is more than halfway there.
• Rating: 3 stars (out of five)
• Fortaken: 

•  I wanted it to have a raw, real-time performance quality,” Ben Sollee says of his new album Half-Made Man (September 25). “This is kinetic expression. I dug deep into myself and asked the musicians to go there with me. To my ear, it sounds like musical search party; we often find what we’re looking for in between defined styles and genres." That adventurous attitude seems second nature to the Kentucky-bred, cello-toting singer-songwriter, a musician who has toured with fellow string virtuosos Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck and, at the request of Yim Yames, recorded with My Morning Jacket. Featuring guest turns from Washburn and MMJ's Carl Broemel, Half-Made Man, is busily and blissfully all over the place, skillfully cobbling together elements of folk, bluegrass, jazz, soul and rock into one sprawling, accomplished work. There's an undeniable urgency to songs like the bristling, surprisingly gritty "Unfinished" and "Whole Lot to Give" that extends as well to the more laid back songs like "Slow Down". For an album full of contradictions, Sollee's bold creative approach works remarkably well: Half-Made Man emerges confoundingly mature and fully grown.
Biography by Andrew Leahey
• A classically trained cellist, Ben Sollee made his name as a backup musician before launching a songwriting career in 2008. Raised in Lexington, KY, he began playing cello as a fourth-grade student and slowly blossomed into a talented instrumentalist, receiving encouragement from his two music-minded parents along the way. The family household was often filled with vintage soul music -- Wilson Pickett, Ray Charles, Billie Holiday, and Otis Redding being the most consistent selections -- and Sollee’s subsequent discovery of folk music helped round out his musical tastes. By the time he relocated to Louisville to pursue his craft professionally, he'd grown into an eclectic musician with demonstrated interests in folk, jazz, R&B, and bluegrass.
• Although he’d already begun writing his own songs, Sollee received his first big break as a member of the Sparrow Quartet, an acoustic supergroup that also featured vocalist Abigail Washburn, banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck, and violinist Casey Driessen. The group toured the world, visited Tibet at the behest of the U.S. State Department, and released several recordings, all of them adventurous projects that featured a blend of American and Asian folk traditions. Although several of his bandmates were more established than he, Sollee enjoyed a good deal of positive press for his contributions to the group, and NPR’s Morning Edition named him one of the Top Ten Unknown Artists of the Year in 2007. One year later, he released an EP of his own material, If You’re Gonna Lead My Country, and followed it with a full-length album named Learning to Bend.
the Sparrow Quartet continued to tour throughout much of 2008 and 2009, but Sollee also found time to play with other artists, including pianist Vienna Teng and fellow Kentucky native Daniel Martin Moore. A folk songwriter himself, Moore began composing a number of new songs with Sollee's help, and the two soon banded together for the creation of Dear Companion. A third Kentucky resident, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, produced the album, which was released by Sub Pop in February 2010.
• Fortaken:
• If You’re Gonna Lead My Country EP (2008)
• "Something Worth Keeping" EP (2008)
• Learning to Bend (sonaBLAST! Records, 2008)
• "Dear Companion (with Daniel Martin Moore)" (2010)
• "Inclusions" (2011)
• "Live at The Grocery On Home" (sonaBLAST! Records, 2012)
• "Half Made Man" (2012)

Xtracycle and cello with the cool wrap that Oxfam designed for the case. in Bike Tour by  © Xtracycle and cello with the cool wrap that Oxfam designed for the case.

 © Photo by Magnus Lindqvist, GLINTstudios // Ben Sollee hopes to get to many of shows by bicycle. The singer-songwriter-cellist says it's as much about working with communities as being environmentally friendly.File:Ben Sollee Live 2012.jpg © Photo credit: Katie Benson; May 25, 2012; Ben Sollee Live Close Up

Ben Solee — Half Made Man (2012)