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Learning to Bend [Vinyl]

5.0 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Learning to Bend
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Vinyl, June 9, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

It was the cat-poles around the lake at his grandfather's farm that inspired Ben Sollee's debut album, LEARNING TO BEND. The frailty of those awkward looking plants effortlessly leaning in accord with the winds that challenged the strongest of nearby trees is an affecting metaphor for human struggle and perseverance. This idea is central to LEARNING TO BEND. Key tracks include two reactions to the current political landscape, "A Few Honest Words" and an adaptation of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" in which Ben has written updated, politically relevant verses. Other highlights of the album are the playful soul track "How to See the Sun Rise" and the vulnerable yet insistent "It's Not Impossible", where Ben laments the unfortunate status quo that "Boys Don't Cry".
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Product Details

  • Vinyl (June 9, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Emergent / 92E
  • ASIN: B0020SC13E
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #238,605 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This album represents a triumph in every respect. Very solid song writing in the pop song tradition: lovely melodies, well-written lyrics sweetly sung. However, what distinguishes this album from most everything else being written and recorded by young musicians these days are the arrangements and tempos. With Ben's background in classical music one naturally finds songs written in different tempos, such as the waltz, and use of other string instruments besides a guitar and Ben's cello. Yet, Ben can still throw in fiddle, Bela Fleck's banjo, jaw harp, drums, harps, saxophones and even a vibraphone when called for. And that's the point, Ben uses these varied instruments when called for, not just to show off. To top things off, this is a stunningly well recorded album, no compression here, which plays well on an audiophile system.
I came to Ben, through the music of Abigail Washburn, who's family and mine have been friends for years. So while I owe it to Abby's family to say nice things about her, not hard at all, I owe nothing to Ben. I have become a fan of his simply by listening to him play with Abby, for several years now, and getting to know him a bit at pre-concert gatherings. This is a tremendously talented young man. His album will stand-up quite well against anything else released this year (I'm talking about artists like Elvis Costello and Van Morrison both of whom released strong albums this year) and will repay re-listening for years to come. Isn't that the real test of a great album?
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Format: Audio CD
This album is simply amazing. Especially in times like these, the optimistic and hopeful view Ben Sollee has on the world is refreshing. His vocals and cello work are distinctive and captivating. "A Few Honest Words," "How To See the Sun Rise," and an adaptation of Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" are a few of the highlights. However, make sure you listen from beginning to end- it will not disappoint.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I just received my copy of Ben Sollee's LEARNING TO BEND and I don't know what I love the most:
1. Hearing a cello morph from genre to genre while being alternately bowed, plucked, and fiddled.
2. Singer/songwriter Sollee's exquisite marriage of melodies and lyrics through a wide variety of songs on a CD that is beyond placement in any category.
3. Sollee's unique voice-peaceful and passionate, somehow at the same time.

Then there's the guest artistry of Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck, in addition to the musical support of the other talented musicians. Truth be told, I've never heard music quite like this and I have hundreds of CDs spanning almost all genres for 40 years.

I was privileged to meet Sollee recently at a dinner discussion of "Arts and Activism". At first I had no idea he was involved in music, much less music of this caliber, but was totally impressed by his passion for both Arts and Activism, especially preserving the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. When I discovered he is also a musician, I HAD to hear some of his stuff. There is NOTHING to compare it to-it's as unique and passionate and amazing as Sollee.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I just had the pleasure of seeing Ben's performance in Knoxville this past weekend. I encourage you to not only buy this album for the fresh and upbeat style he brings to the music world, but also to treat yourself to a live performance. I have purchased several copies as gifts, and look forward to more delightful recordings in the future from this true talent.
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By Bob Areddy on October 23, 2009
Format: Audio CD
I came across Ben Sollee accidentally when searching for music by Ben Lee. I almost searched again, but something drew me to the "Listen to All" and took a sample. Then I got the CD.

This is one of the most incredible records I've ever heard. Love Ben's voice, the variety of instruments which are used, the minimization of music, which I believe when pulled off, really shows the skill of the artist. Every song is unique, yet the album is a coherent story. Incredible.

It's friday, it's raining outside, 40 degrees, gray, and I'm sitting at a desk programming, waiting for 4pm so I can go home. I've listened to this CD 3 times, and in the middle of the 4th listening. I just can't get enough.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
He is great folk cellist who is progressing acoustic music and progressing social change! His songs are thoughtful and charming and he is extremely talented at his instrument. Also a very nice person to talk with if you ever see him perform.
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Format: MP3 Music Verified Purchase
The whole album is so musically unique; simple yet bold. The use of sparse string instrumentation is wonderful. It sure sounds like the artists are playing "period instruments" as used in classical music. These classical recordings use instruments of the era in which the music was written and smaller orchestras rather than the larger modern orchestras. I hear that great throaty sound of real gut strings that create a three-dimensional sound adding a percussive quality to the melody and tempo. Conductors John Eliot Gardiner, Christopher Hogwood and Sigiswald Kuijken are among the leaders of this movement in the classical world, reconstructing original transcriptions and instrumentation and recording in the old church venues where the pieces premiered. A music teacher of mine at UNC Chapel Hill, Dr. Lara Hoggard, helped Gardiner with reconstruction of Brahms's German Requiem, a must-have recording. In any case, as others have said here, this synthesis of song and structure is a real treat.
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