Ben Sollee and Kentucky Native - Mipso

Sun King Brewery & MOKB Present

Ben Sollee and Kentucky Native - Mipso

Wed, March 7, 2018

Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

$15.00 - $18.00

This event is 21 and over

Ben Sollee & Kentucky Native
Ben Sollee & Kentucky Native
Ten years ago Kentucky native Ben Sollee came to prominence singing Sam Cooke while playing the cello. The NPR sensation was not a backwoods novelty. Sollee's spare, exultant interpretation of “A Change is Gonna Come” announced the arrival of a relentlessly curious musical soul for whom change constantly comes.

In the decade following Sollee has recorded roughly an album a year (and nearly that many EPs), in a daunting variety of settings. He has played with trance bluesman Otis Taylor, with banjo virtuosos Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck (in the Sparrow Quartet, with Casey Driessen), and collaborated with Jim James of My Morning Jacket, with DJs, acoustic musicians, visual artists, software specialists and environmentalists. He has composed ballets and music for films and for stage. He has helped raise his son and support his family with an ambitious tour schedule. He has cycled 5,000 miles by bike, towing his cello “Kay” behind him as part of the “Ditch The Van” tours.

He has relentlessly made and studied and thought about art and the environment. And life, and how to make the world around him better.

Sollee describes his newest release, Ben Sollee and Kentucky Native (the name describing both the ensemble and the album) as a bluegrass record, fully aware that his is not the traditional view. “Bluegrass music is immigrant music,” he says, offering his expansive definition across the kitchen table. “It's the music of Irish and Scottish musicians bringing their fiddle tunes; it is gospel music; it is African music; it is gypsy jazz; it is rock 'n' roll. It is all these things. What makes it unique and of Kentucky is that it was distilled by the people who lived here in Kentucky, and turned into something else.”

Turned into songs that ache and sing and soar.

Sollee convened his new ensemble in a cabin deep within the Bernheim Arboretum & Research Forest, south of Louisville. “We cooked for each other and we drank bourbon with each other and we wrote this music together. So it's kind of in and of a place.”

The band once again includes Sollee's long-time friend and collaborator (see: their 2016 release, Infowars) Jordon Ellis on percussion. “He's playing the quietest percussion you could ever imagine,” Sollee says, “but it still sounds really tight and huge. That was kind of inspired by the Tinariwen records.”

The rest of the Kentucky Natives are new to Sollee. Violin and fiddle are courtesy Julian Pinelli, a recent Berkeley graduate. (“Gosh, he's a big old tall lanky feller, and real quiet, but he plays the fiddle just crazy slinky and beautiful. He can also perk up and rock that classical technique as well.”) Banjo is handled by Bennett Sullivan, fresh off a stint on Broadway in Steve Martin's “Bright Star.” (“In my opinion, he's one of the great young banjo players, from the standpoint of his ability to play bebop jazz or slip into really classic Earl Scruggs-style picking.”) Bass duties were split between Jonathan Estes and Josh Hari, with Jona Smith on backing vocals.

“I wanted to make a record that was just humans, sitting in a room, playing instruments of wood and metal,” Sollee says. “That's all it is. There's no over-dubs. Sorry, that's not true. I overdubbed a couple of my vocals. It is just what we played in the living room sitting around microphones. And oftentime we'd

start in on an idea, and then before we could move to our microphones, the engineer, Alex [Krispin], would just place the mics around us. And that was part of his process, too. He really captured the spontaneity of creation.”

The songs on Kentucky Native also beautifully capture Sollee's evolving approach to the issues which sometimes frame his work. “I used to be very message forward in my music,” he says. “Over time, you go out and play shows and talk to people from all different walks of life and you stay with them in their houses and you have food with them. After a while, if you're listening, it's hard to maintain any type of stringent devout belief that this is right and this is wrong. And so in that messiness I thought, hmm, maybe my message shouldn't be about issues, it should be about people.”

“This new record focuses much more maybe simply. It focuses on the idea that humans are all trying to figure it out, and they're all struggling in different ways. We have songs about working people, truck drivers travelling around trying to figure out the pace of life and how fix the future. Realizing that there is no fixing the future, it's just a path that we're all on. And you've got songs about tugboats and their operators, songs about well-worn men and two-tone gals. I think it's much more compelling to focus in on a human, this two-tone gal, who is struggling with the disease that is addiction and taking a little John Priney humor and sprinkling it over the top.”

The second track, “Presence,” is as close to political as Kentucky Native gets. “It opens with me laying at the bottom of a pool, which is one of my favorite things to do because, as a musician, quiet is something that I rarely come by,” Sollee says. “That's a really relaxing place to be, because you can't control anything, and it's quiet. But you can't hold your breath all the time. You just can't stay there. Then [the song] launches out into the world and eventually we meet this character — the future — who you look to for answers. But then you realize, shit, they're blind. So all you've got is the presence of where you are.”

At the center of Kentucky Native rests the exquisitely simple “Pieces of You,” an homage to Lexington artist Louis Bickett, who has spent his adult life collecting and tagging the ephemera of existence. The work is called, simply, “The Archive.” “It is a collection of objects — things,” Sollee explains. “Books, teddy bears, dirt from places he's visited, jars of water and trash from different places, the underwear of old lovers, everything. And it's all carefully cataloged and displayed in his home. It's really overwhelming to go visit, because it's basically all these touchpoints of living on earth.”

Bickett was diagnosed with ALS during the summer of 2016, which led Sollee to return to “this little kernel of a song that I had sketched out on the road, this 'Pieces of You' song, that I had sketched out at the Cathedral of Junk in South Austin, Texas.”

The insatiable curiosity of an inveterate wanderer, of a close observer. Take the new song, “Mechanical Advantage,” built from simply watching a young woman cross the street. Only the song itself is rather more complex. “It's just super-duper fun to sing because it's in this Mexican huapango groove,” Sollee says, singing a bit by way of explanation, “this music of Central Mexico that I love so much. It's very different, groove-wise, than anything that we play in America, even though it feels very fiddly, and very Appalachian to me. And it should. It's kind of mountain string music.”

And then he talks about Lauryn Hill, Paul Simon, and Nina Simone, “this continual path to try to get to where some of my favorite artists are.”

Which is why Ben Sollee is serious about his interpretation of bluegrass. “What does bluegrass music sound like today if we continue to include cultures that live here? I'm trying to continue the actual act of what bluegrass music was and is, rather than maintaining a tradition. Adding a node to the tradition.”
Chapel Hill quartet Mipso return with new a new album, Coming Down The Mountain (April 7, 2017) --ten songs of love and loss and forward motion, with words that sear and salve in turn, and music that invites you in to stay a while. Mipsoventures further than ever from their string-band pedigree to discover a broader Americana where classic folk-rock and modern alt-country mingle easily with Appalachian tradition. It's an album aptly named, not only because the band finds purchase in a more pastoral sound, but also because of the stories they tell. These are songs about going somewhere or coming back, about our changing relationship to the idea of home, and about being pushed or pulled by forces bigger than us. These North Carolinians cross a threshold too, adding drums for the first time in three LPs, and more electric instruments than ever to their four-part harmonies and powerful acoustic meld. The resulting album is a thing of wistful beauty, hopeful undercurrents, and panoramic soundscapes that impart intimacy.Looking in from outside, Mipso didn't needto change much at all. Their 2015 album, Old Time Reverie, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard bluegrass chart despite including sounds far afield from a Flatt and Scruggs record. Just a couple years before, guitarist Joseph Terrell, fiddler Libby Rodenbough, mandolin player Jacob Sharp, and bassist Wood Robinson were in college together at UNC-Chapel Hill, where they met for the first time even with being NC natives every one. Now, it seems as if Mipso has been bringing their music to hungry audiences daily since, touring constantly, doing countless festivals, and even playing the odd nationally televised event (2015's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade) or political bash (2017's inaugural ball for their governor Roy Cooper). Libby admits that all that movement takes a toll. "We hit a crazed state of being either hysterically happy or annoyed with each other. Food helps. We all agree on tacos," she says. "But travel becomes the lens we use to view everything."Last summer, though their heads were full of songs about movement, Mipso decided to slow the world down. "Rather than put pedal to metal till we have a new album, we huddled," says Joseph. They stocked up on snacks and cases of LaCroix, and set up for a week in a friend's barn on acreage usually used for growing garlic and, oddly, training dogs. First they played each other the music they'd been listening to lately, and some inspirations stuck: the Band's singular sound, the openness of '70s Laurel Canyon fare, Whiskeytown's Gram Parsons-inspired '90s rock experiments, and how Gillian Welch's Soul Journeyperfectly bridged acoustic to electric. "We talked about adding drums and electric guitar like it was a huge symbolic shift," Joseph continues, "We joked about people yelling 'Judas!' from the crowd.” But they plugged in all the same, discovered that the change in sound wasn't so much of a departure after all, work-shopped demos occasionally interrupted by packs of dogs chasingbirds past the big windows, and ultimately took that looseness with them to the studio.If it seems like the twin influences of tour angst and homey ease would be at odds, Coming Down The Mountain's titular opener puts that lie to rest. It's melancholic and lush, with pedal steel and a subtle bass groove framing Libby's lines about returning to a flawed society after a period of isolation, weary but driven. On "Spin Me Round," the fiddle sighs and soars while Jacob sings of a similar duality in love, concluding that the relationship's troubles are actually what keep it interesting. Meanwhile, the rambler "Talking in My Sleep" with hints of Heart of Gold-era Neil Young era juxtaposes the comfort of home's dependability with the feeling of, as Joseph says,wanting to "kick a chair over, slam the door, and beat out of town." And though the spare duet "Cry Like Somebody" plays like a scathing dig at a ex, it's self-directed, as Libby explains, "to give myself a kick for crying for reasons other than real hardship—you only think as romantically as I do if you grew up with food on the table." Internal conflict is a powerful engine.While there are joyful tunes like coming-of-age clod-kicker "Hurts So Good," Coming Down The Mountainis all the more memorable forwhat it does with loss—take the delicate folk fable "My Burden with Me," or funeral lament "Monterey County" with mournful pedal steel by Eric Heywood (Son Volt, Tift Merritt). The dirge-like closer "Water Runs Red" was inspired partly by Flint's water crisis, and Jacob's lilting "Hallelujah" by the 2016 Orlando tragedy. "Music is my religion these days," he says. "I find the most hope in songs and the communities that love them." Mipso are well supported on album too, of course, with Megafaun's Brad Cook producing and a cast of North Carolina’s finest pitching in. In fact, if there's a guiding force here, it's the mercurial, imperfect nature of the very state that made Mipso. “North Carolina’s complicated. But I wouldn’t want to live in L.A, where it’s 70 degrees every day and everyone agrees with me," says Joseph. But Mipso thrive in the difference. That's why they needed change. That's why we need them. Mipsois: Joseph Terrell (guitar, vocals)Wood Robinson (bass, vocals)Libby Rodenbough(fiddle, vocals)Jacob Sharp (mandolin, vocals)###
Venue Information:
1043 Virginia Ave #4
Indianapolis, IN, 46203