Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore: Joe’s Pub

Every time I told people I was going to this show and they asked what kind of music it was, I had a tough time describing it. “Well, he plays the cello, but it’s not classical, and it’s not really pop, but also not really rock. It’s kind of indie, but also kind of bluegrass, country, bluesy, and Andrew Bird-y too…”, I would say as I’d trail off. And it was true; I wasn’t entirely sure how to classify Ben and Daniel’s collaboration. Until last night.

While I was hoping for a concert featuring Mr. Sollee’s cello proficiency, the show focused more on the vocals and the songs themselves, with the instrumentation, albeit fantastic, taking a backseat to the music as a whole. The songs were mainly indie infused bluegrass tunes, as one would expect of a semi-hipster-ish group from Kentucky, but with tones of everything from the blues, to Eastern music, to Norah Jones built in.

As Elana and I stood there awed by the four part harmonies and beautiful, if simple, songs, I was struck by the genuineness of these musicians and songwriters. When they talked about the problems in coal-mining areas of Appalachia, they did so more to inform us of the issues than to make us feel guilty about these problems. When Ben sang “But this is only a song, it can’t change the world,” he reinforced that idea that despite the fact that this band has causes to champion, they’re not Bono; they’re just human beings who want to play some music, and make the world a slightly better place. When violinist/guitarist Cheyenne Mize took swigs not from a beer bottle, but from a Nalgene, she seemed more like a real person than a distant rockstar. And when percussionist/keyboardist Dan Dorff played a stomping solo during “Bury Me With My Car,” it became clear that these were just regular people trying to have a good time. Sure, these regular people happen to be great musicians and songwriters, but regular people nonetheless.

So when we went up to the band members after the show and told them what a great show it was, we weren’t surprised to see them excited to hear our congratulations. Sure, they write and play some of the best bluegrass/indie/soulful music out there, but they’re just a bunch of guys (and a gal) from Kentucky trying to make the world a slightly better place by playing great music. And last night, for Elana and myself, they certainly achieved their goal.

Pictures courtesy of the talented and beautiful Elana.

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