First Watch: Ben Sollee, 'Unfinished'

Sep 11, 2012
Originally published on September 18, 2012 7:18 pm

Ben Sollee is a classically trained cellist whose forays into Americana have led him to work with Abigail Washburn, Bela Fleck and Daniel Martin Moore. But over time, Sollee has drifted ever further into sweetly anthemic rock: His forthcoming album Half Made Man positively soars, with cellos used to feed the drama and fuel Sollee's ruminations on the pursuit of meaning in modern life.

"Unfinished" perfectly captures both the album's themes and his band's capacity to match Sollee's lyrical ambition; the song gets ever more grandiose as it swoons and swells. Its video doesn't bother to pile on visual storytelling, but opts instead to capture the intimacy of a studio recording. It's a simple approach, artfully and gorgeously shot, and in the process it does justice to a song that aims high and hits its mark.

Here's Ben Sollee on "Unfinished":

"'Unfinished' is a self-portrait in song, and the idea with the video was nothing more than to give a portrait of the tracking: peaceful, focused and musician-oriented. They were such pros that they crafted their own parts, constantly refining them till we got this magic take."

And here's producer Chris Witzke:

"Even though it was January in Kentucky, the light in the old house was so warm. As the musicians tracked live, I bounced around and captured a collage of moments. We didn't try to do anything other than capture the performance in the hopes that the viewer could feel like they were a part of the session."

Ben Sollee's new album, Half Made Man, comes out Sept. 25 on Tin Ear Records.

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