Ben Sollee - "Mechanical Advantage" (audio) (premiere)

by Sarah Zupko

8 June 2017

Ben Sollee marries a Mexican huapango groove to progressive bluegrass in his new single "Mechanical Advantage". His new album releases August 11th.
Photo: Mallory Cunningham 

Cello-playing Americana maestro Ben Sollee has been making waves for years as a musician that seeks to transcend genre boundaries. Ten years ago, he recorded a spare, cello and vocals take on the soul classic “A Change Is Gonna Come” that was a stunningly fresh look at the powerful song from the ‘60s civil rights era recorded first by Sam Cooke and later by Otis Redding and many others. Sollee’s use of quiet spaces within the song helped heighten the dramatic importance of the song’s message.
That wide-ranging approach to music reflects an experimental and curious spirit within Sollee that leads to his musical creations always being worth exploring. Sollee’s latest album is the upcoming Ben Sollee and Kentucky Native releasing August 11th via Soundly Music, available for pre-order now, and it uses bluegrass as the central framework. But this is no Bill Monroe tribute album in the sense that Sollee’s bluegrass is thoroughly forward-looking; while Sollee honors the past, he also seeks to push for new connections that he hears between American bluegrass music and the music of other countries and regions.

On “Mechanical Advantage”, Sollee marries his bluegrass ensemble’s sound to a Mexican huapango groove, a sound highly popular in Central Mexico. Sollee says, “It’s very different, groove-wise, than anything that we play in America, even though it feels very fiddly, and very Appalachian to me. And it should. It’s kind of mountain string music.” The result is mesmerizing and original. We need more music like this in the world.

6/12 – Chicago, IL – Millennium Park (KN)
7/1 – London, KY – Red, White & Boom (D)
7/7 – Berea, KY – Levitt AMP Berea Music Series (D)
7/12 – Jackson, WY – Grand Teton Music Festival (KN)
7/13 – Minturn, CO – Little Beach Park and Amphitheater (KN)
7/15 – Steamboat Springs, CO – Strings Music Festival (KN)
8/13 – 8/17 – Lyons, CO – Song School (S)
8/18 – 8/20 – Lyons, CO – Rocky Mountain Folks Festival (KN)
8/24 – Louisville, KY – Kentucky State Fair (KN)
KN = Kentucky Native / D = Ben Sollee and Jordon Ellis / S = Ben Sollee solo

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