Ten years ago, Kentucky native Ben Sollee came to prominence by singing Sam Cooke while playing the cello. The NPR sensation was not some backwoods novelty. Sollee's spare, exultant interpretation of “A Change is Gonna Come” announced the arrival of a relentlessly curious musical soul. In the decade following, Sollee recorded a slew of albums and EPs in a daunting variety of settings. He has played with trance bluesman Otis Taylor, banjo virtuosos Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck, and has collaborated with Jim James of My Morning Jacket. He has also collaborated with DJs, acoustic musicians, visual artists, software specialists, and environmentalists. Sollee has composed ballets and music for films and for stage. He has also cycled 5,000 miles by bike, towing his cello “Kay” behind him as part of his “Ditch The Van” tours.
Sollee describes his newest release, Ben Sollee and Kentucky Native (which shares its name with his band) as a bluegrass record, fully aware that his is not the traditional view. “Bluegrass music is immigrant music,” he says, offering his expansive definition across the kitchen table. “It's the music of Irish and Scottish musicians bringing their fiddle tunes; it is gospel music; it is African music; it is gypsy jazz; it is rock 'n' roll. It is all these things. What makes it unique and of Kentucky is that it was distilled by the people who lived here in Kentucky, and turned into something else.”