Lexington native and resident, when he’s not touring the nation on his bike, Ben Sollee made his Lincoln Center debut Saturday night in the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse as part of the Center’s American Songbook series.
Kevin Dearinger, who splits his time between New York and Lexington, was in the audience and sent along a note to brag on Sollee:
“I have been following Ben’s career since he was in high school and playing backup (brilliantly!) for WoodSongs (Old-Time Radio Hour),” wrote Dearinger, author of The Bard in the Bluegrass: Two Centuries of Shakespearian Performance in Lexington, Kentucky. “Even then he stood out as a shy but definite star.
“He was great on Saturday — inventive, charming, touching, funny, original, and musically extraordinary. He is very generous with his audience and a great partner with his musicians. There was so much music that sparked with call and response. He spoke of Kentucky again and again with great pride, and I was full of Kentucky pride watching and listening to him. The crowd was eclectic and very enthusiastic. Ben is pretty irresistible. His son was dancing in the aisle next to me. I wanted to dance in the aisles, too, but it was Lincoln Center. My feet never stopped tapping.”
Also in the audience was New York Times critic Stephen Holden, whose review appeared online Sunday and in Monday’s paper. He wrote:
“Appalachian mountain music gave way to the blues, and one song was appended with a fragment from a Bach cello suite, beautifully played,” Holden wrote. “More often than not Mr. Sollee preferred plucking the instrument to bowing it.
“He affectionately recalled being introduced to the cello in elementary school and described the pleasure of bike trips, in which he pedals from gig to gig. In the hypnotic instrumental Fiddle Tune, Mr. Ellis tapped on the cello as Mr. Sollee evoked the euphoria of finding a comfortable groove while whizzing down the road. Joy peeked through the music like rays of sunshine in the Kentucky woods.”