ben sollee

Ben Sollee returned to Pittsburgh in support of his recently released CD Inclusions.

The music on Ben Sollee's CDs sound lush, rich.  With 3 young and talented musicians on-stage, that robust sound and more was duplicated at Club Cafe Wednesday night.  Joining Ben Sollee (vocals, cello, guitar):  Phoebe Hunt (formerly of The Belleville Outfit) on vocals, violin and bass with Jordon Eillis on drums and percussion.  I was simply amazed at how electrifying the music was and how it filled the room and yet the concert was still very intimate.

The show began with Ben Sollee singing Carrie Bell a cappella.  The set was heavy on the new music from Inculsions, which has only been out on the streets for a little over a week.  I've only had the chance to preview the new CD, and hearing the songs live for the first time, makes me want to listen even more closely to the CD.  Can I add again how amazed I am that the songs really come to life during a live performance - you can see the passion and how the musicians are feeling Ben Sollee's music. Close to You, Embrace, The Globe, Bible Belt, and Electrified were among the songs performed from Inclusions.  There was It's Not Impossible (Boys Don't Cry) and How to See the Sun Rise (also featured in the TV show Weeds) from Learning to Bend. From his project with Daniel Martin Moore (Dear Companion) Mr. Sollee sang Try.  I've seen Mr. Sollee perform a couple of times and I was reminded how beautifully he plays the cello when he intros his songs with an extended instrumental.  Ms. Hunt treated us to one of her own tunes Fly On.  It didn't seem like Mr. Sollee wanted the music to end, even after an hour and forty-five minutes.  For the encore, everyone on stage, including Sean Rowe, huddled around one microphone to sing and then the final song, a cover of Cat Stevens Wild World, which got the audience to join in on the singing.

Ben Sollee with Phoebe Hunt and Jordon Ellis performed a Studio Session at WYEP earlier in the day, electrifying the space with music.

Opening was singer-songwriter Sean Rowe.  He reminds me a lot of Darrell Scott.  He played about a 45-minute set, using a couple of different guitars (which he could finger-pick very well).  His newest CD is Magic and we heard a few tasty tunes like: Jonathan, Wet (which mentions Pittsburgh, and Mr. Rowe was happy to sing it here), Old Black Dodge, Time to Think and American.  He included a cover of a Tom Waits song (Jesus Gonna Be Here) and ended with a cover of a Richard Thompson tune, both of which really suited his playing and singing style.  I am a new fan of  Sean Rowe's music.

Barb S. - Sunday Mix Host




ben sollee sean rowe singer-songwriters

A singer–songwriter is a musician who writes, composes and sings their own material including lyrics and melodies. Recently I had the chance to see a couple of sets of singer-songwriters; from the local and national level.

The quarterly local songwriters spotlight hosted by Joe Grushecky and Rick Witkowski featured guests Billy Price, Carol Lee Espy and Bob Corbin. All five songwriters took turns performing three of their signature songs, old and new. There were stories and laughter and a good camaraderie and mutual admiration and respect. I would watch the other singer-songwriters sing and play along almost spontaneously being caught up in the moment. Grushecky did some older songs “Fingerprints”, and “Pumping Iron” and something new, the title track of his latest release “East Carson Street”. Witkowski started with “Soul Control”, then did a personal song about “Love & Food & Rachel” for the daughter they never had and B.E. Taylor Groups “Vitamin L” became a sing-a-long (taking us back to the MTV video days and a #1 hit in Pittsburgh). In between the guests took their turns in the spotlight. Billy Price offered “Who You’re Workin’ For,” “Eldorado Cafe” and a new song he co-wrote with someone from France “Under the Influence”. Carol Lee Espy kept commenting how hard it was to follow Price’s energetic performances with her laid back country tunes. Espy sang what she called her signature song “My Name is Mary” along with “Cross the River” (written from a farmer’s point of view; she had to think like a man) and “The Allegheny Song”, about the river. Bob Corbin began with a new going away tune “I’ll Be There”, then did “Scooter, Michael, Danny and Me” and one the six songs which he wrote that reached #1, Alabama’s “Fire in the Night”.

The most interesting part of the evening was when each of the songwriters performed a song that they wish they had penned. “You Better Move On”, by a relative unknown (except to the Beatles and Rolling Stones) Arthur Alexander was the choice by Grushecky. Price chose an Al Green song “Love and Happiness”. Espy likes the 3-chord songs by John Prine and sang “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness”, a song about the dissolution of a relationship. Another John; Hiatt, was the choice for Bob Corbin, at the piano he sang “Have a Little Faith in Me”. Witkowski went with “I Want To Hold Your Hand”.

After a standing ovation, the songwriters came back on stage to sing a song from The Band, “The Weight”. Does anyone really know all the lyrics to the song or even the words to the chorus? A sheet was passed around to each performer as they took a verse and the audience joined in on the chorus. It was an wonderful two hours of music and a great way to spend a Saturday evening.

Just a few days later Pittsburgh was the first stop on a brief tour for a trio of singer-songwriters. Ben Sollee and Carrie Rodriguez have been joined by Erin McKeown. All three came on stage to start the show, then Rodriguez did a solo set. She used two different guitars and really knows how to play the fiddle. The half-dozen songs included a couple of tracks from her 2008 release “She Ain’t Me”: “Infinite Night” and “Absence”. Her new CD is going to be a covers CD, including the Townes Van Zandt song “Rex’s Blues” (appropriate tune for the venue, The Rex Theater) and a song that her dad e-mailed to her “When I Heard Gypsy Davey Sing”. Ben Sollee’s set was filled with long, lavish instrumental introductions on the cello, proving that songwriters can also compose beautiful music without lyrics. At the end of his set, Sollee was joined by Rodriquez and McKeown and really “electrified” the stage. After a short break, it was McKeown’s turn. Despite jet lag (returning from a European tour), she took center stage. She treated the audience to three tracks from her most recent release “Hundreds of Lions”, by introducing each song as “Track 1”, “Track 2” and “Track 3”. For the encore, the trio played Cat Stevens “Wild World” and rounded out the two hour show with a rousing instrumental. Despite little rehearsal, these singer-songwriters really came together and treated the “school night” crowd to a warm, enjoyable evening of music.

Barb S. – Sunday Mix Host


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ben sollee billy price bob corbin carol lee espy carrie rodriguez erin mckeown joe grushecky rick witkowski singer-songwriters
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