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Kentucky singer-songwriter looks to definte urban folk

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2011

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Ben Sollee’s goal for his sophomore album, “Inclusions,” was hardly modest.

“The creative charge was definitely trying to find out what contemporary folk sounds like,” says the cello-playing singer and songwriter, who hails from Kentucky and incorporates plenty of modern sonic elements into his brand of folk.

“The tradition of folk music is the fiddler playing the tune, or the guy with his guitar playing an old ballad. But there are more people than ever living in urban settings, so the idea was to explore what that actually sounds like.”

While that sounds conceptually daunting, Sollee — who’s also worked with Abigail Washburn, Bela Fleck and Casey Driessen in the Sparrow Quartet — says he didn’t have to look much further than himself to put what he was trying to do in some kind of organic perspective.

“To me,” explains Sollee, 27, “urban folk is a Kentucky boy picking up a cello in public school, growing up playing fiddle tunes with his grandfather but also listening to Lauryn Hill, and then going to college to play classical music while going on tour with a bluegrass band.

“Those ‘Inclusions,’ weird things that don’t seem to belong together, that’s what urban folk is, and that’s what I tried to express on this album and what I’m trying to do in my shows.”

Ben Sollee and Sean Rowe perform Thursday, May 19, at the Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $13. Call 248-544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.

Web Site: www.themagicbag.com

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