otp: learning to bend

  • Bend
  • Ben Sollee
  • Learning to Bend

Ben Sollee - Bend - Learning to Bend

Ben Sollee is an extremely talented cellist and an influential environmental activist specifically speaking out against Mountain Top Removal.

I fell a little in love with him at Bonnaroo this summer.

Prettiest tree on the mountain
  • Prettiest tree on the mountain
  • Ben Sollee
  • Learning to Bend

Today’s audio gift is a track by Ben Sollee called “Prettiest Tree on the Mountain.” It’s from Learning to Bend, an exceptional album.

“Well a robin flew by my window
I thought it just might be you
Judging from the colour of its breast
And the sound of its song
But I’m just thinking of you

‘Cause you’re in sunny California
The fertile land on Steinbeck road
When I came not a single furrow patch
Could be spared for you and me

You see I wanted to love you baby
But neither you nor I’d been loved before
I thought I could change the world if I just held you high enough
The truth is I couldnt hold you up at all

I couldnt hold you up
I couldnt hold you up
And I sure aint gonna hold you down

Well Im leaving
Walking back home
I dont care if it takes years or more
But as I walk through the hills of Kentucky
The leaves begin to turn red

And I think of you
Yes, I think of you
The prettiest tree on the mount.”

[Album of the Week] Ben Sollee - Learning To Bend

It’s often hard to take artists seriously when they discuss politics, love or God. Ben Sollee has an indisputable honesty about him that allows him to bridge all of the subjects in the most believable of ways. Learning To Bend is Sollee’s solo debut from 2008. Since then he’s released Dear Companion (with Daniel Martin Moore) and more recently Inclusions.

Of all Sollee’s albums Learning to Bend is my favorite. It is Solle at his purest. A classically trained cellosist with a beautiful voice staying true to the genres that have inspired him the most, soul and bluegrass. Throughout the album he’s able to weld them together leading the way with his cello, an instrument known for weaving it’s way seamlessly through various genres. A pluck here a melody there to accompany his soulful voice or that layered effect you hear under a banjo.

“A Few Honest Words” is one of those songs you wouldn’t take seriously if it had come from any other artists, yet it’s so straight forward and honest coming from Sollee. “We don’t choose our leaders. They choose themselves. Tell me again about democracy.” Politics never sounded so direct and uncomplicated. While tracks like “How To See The Sun Rise” are as soulful as they are playful.

What I find most arresting about this album is the instantaneous connection made with the artist while listening. He is your equal, he could be your friend and hes singing his heart out about the things that are most important to him. They are the basics, the problems and ideas that surround us all. Listening to this album affirms that we all have the same worries, hopes and dreams. We are all in this together.

A Few Honest Words

How To See The Sun Rise

Built For This


Ben Sollee: A change is gonna come
(Learning to bend, 2008)