BEN SOLLEE AND DANIEL MARTIN MOORE
[Rating: 3.5 stars]
The protest song, written for immediate and explosive impact, is a familiar form of message-and-emotion-driven expression. But it’s not one that Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore need employ to say what they want to say on Dear Companion. The two Kentucky-native singers and songwriters get their message—in a nutshell, that mountaintop removal coal mining is phenomenally devastating—across in a little less familiar fashion. And, helping them in a production capacity is a third Kentuckian dedicated to the cause, My Morning Jacket’s Yim Yames.
Sollee and Moore have different approaches to singing and songwriting—Sollee’s edged in burnished, Sam Cooke-influenced soul and rendered, with rhythmic innovations, on cello, Moore’s a light, wistful folk touch on acoustic guitar—and they mostly wrote separately for the project. But, together, their contributions—and voices, as showcased in the golden brotherly harmony of “My Wealth Comes To Me”—are a nice, focused fit, though Moore’s songs are more understated. He paints poetic pictures of the landscape, both pristine and ravaged (the latter in “Flyrock Blues”), while Sollee plumbs the impulses that drive people to destroy or to try and better things (“Something, Somewhere, Sometime” and “Only a Song” are fine examples of each). Sollee and Moore take up the issue earnestly, but they also do it with considerable finesse.