Quarters for the Jukebox

Album—Learning to Bend by Ben Sollee

Learning to Bend
Ben Sollee‘s string driven debut is an inventive, refreshingly unique introduction, and one of the stronger entries of 2008. With Tobey Maguire looks and cello in hand, Sollee makes a playground of folk, soul, indie pop and bluegrass. Married within his plucked sounds, Sollee’s voice is a soulful rasp emoting tenderness just as easily as it does weariness. The rare gift in this voice is that the believability it conveys, is easily digested by the ear as a pleasant sound. World weary singers aren’t always listened to for their ability to carry a tune, but Sollee pulls it off, and this will only help with his appeal to a wider audience. This sound is integral to the album, as it revolves around the theme of human perseverance — “learning to bend” in the stiffest of winds. Sollee simultaneously acknowledges life’s hardships while empowering you with hope.

The album houses one of the most interesting interpretations of “A Change is Gonna Come” you’ve ever heard; “Panning for Gold” is genuinely moving; “How to See the Sun Rise” is a playful porch-step game … the album is a wonderful achievement. You can hear several of his songs on his Web site—check for yourself.

Quarters for the songs: A Change is Gonna Come; A Few Honest Words; It’s Not Impossible; Panning for Gold; How to See the Sun Rise.

Worth listening, if you like: Andrew Bird; Elvis Perkins; Ed Jurdi; Amos Lee; Ben Harper; Damien Rice; Sufjan Stevens; early, early Tom Waits; Ray LaMontagne.


Album — Attack & Release by The Black Keys

The Black Keys 

The Black Keys play up their barebones folksy blues rock on their fifth full album (interestingly produced by Danger Mouse, of Gnarls Barkley fame). The duo from Ohio sets down 11 raw tracks, dipping into influences of soul, bluegrass, rock, funk, country and blues. The mixture provides a range of sounds never straying too much from the core of the band, working as a collection of musical grit effectively taking some old ideas and making them sound new. Check for yourself.

Quarters for the songs: Strange Times; Psychotic Girl; All You Ever Wanted; I Got Mine; So He Won’t Break; Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be.

Worth listening, if you like: Junior Kimbrough; Queens of the Stone Age; Cold War Kids; The Brian Jonestown Massacre; The Raconteurs; Led Zeppelin; Kings of Leon; North Mississippi Allstars; Jimi Hendrix; Gov’t Mule; The White Stripes; The Roots.