Ben Sollee has a jazz pop vibe going on and it is extremely catchy. The Kentucky native (who admits he’ll probably never leave the state) has been playing the cello for most of his life which has been prominently featured on every single one of his numerous albums and he is now working on another full-length, Half-Made Man. While it is not easy to categorize Sollee, since he bounces from genre to genre every song, he does have the constant folk, jazz, and R&B style flowing from his lips. Sollee’s vocals are very soulful and remind you of Allen Stone’s raspy yet gospel-like voice. It’s the type of voice that make ladies swoon and the type of instrumental melodies that make everyone sway back-and-forth.
“How To See The Sun Rise” (second song on the above player) starts out with a jazz lounge feel with mallets hitting a marimba, drums, and Ben Sollee on the cello. Once Sollee starts singing, his opening line being “Well teach me, baby”, you hear the swift back-and-forth of a violin with the lighter notes of the marimba and cymbals crashes. The songs is split in half like the Nommo; on one hand you have this incredibly upbeat melody with soulful vocals, on the other hand the lyrics promote the idea of the singer’s unrequited love. With lyrics like “Teach me baby…/How to see the sun rise/ In the dead of night/ Cus that’s how it feels baby/ Cus you don’t feel that way too” tells the listener how Sollee knows his love is not going to be returned, just as you cannot see the sun rise at night. Sollee continues with many other metaphors about his love and how it cannot or will not be returned, but unless you truly listen to the lyrics you would think the song is upbeat love song.
Sollee has fantastic vocals and his unique blend of stringed instruments with his jazz-folk style makes him stand out from the crowd. The backbone of “How To See The Sun Rise” is full of old blues soul mixed with orchestral instruments and is a great introduction to a stellar artist. Half-Made Man is slated to be released this October and Sollee is doing a crowd-sourced drive to raise funds for the album at PledgeMusic with a great array of incentives including t-shirts, handwritten lyrics, Skype sessions, and even a signed cello.
One of the first things you notice when perusing the beer aisle are labels; the various modern designs, vintage labels, and mediocre designs all mixed onto numerous styles of beers in order to sell them. They are extremely important in grabbing a customer’s attention, just like book covers and movie posters, and there’s even a blog called Oh, Beautiful Beer that is dedicated to the design of labels. The mermaid-like creatures of the Nommo label (Boulevard Brewing) are captivating; they are connected like Siamese twins, yet mirror one another in their movements and drink. One half being female with long hair the other half being a male with a long beard, which makes you delve into the question of whether that was intended to promote Nommo as a beer for both sexes.
Upon pouring Nommo into a tulip glass (which Boulevard so kindly recommends with a picture), you get a whiff of malts, the Belgian yeast and its accompanying banana scent alongside cloves. Nommo has a crystallized honey head once poured with an amber color to the beer that is slightly reminiscent of a salted caramel sauce ready for dipping. The anticipation of tasting a beer (especially one that you have been lusting over for many weeks) for the first time makes that first sip go in slow-motion. The long drawn-out road from the table to your mouth brings a more dramatic tone to that initial gulp, with the bubbles on the head tickling your nose and the sweet brew gracing over your taste buds. Nommo starts out with a sweet and tart forefront with a nice crisp edge to it that contains small bursts of pain in its carbonated bubbles. As you swallow the beer, the dubbel coats your tongue in a layer of a sweet syrup that has no true hint of hops or bitterness. The front of the bottle states that Nommo is an ale made with molasses and other spices, which explains the sweet and rich syrupy taste.
Nommo is quite sweet on the tongue and boasts some spicy notes with coriander and cinnamon at the front with an undertone of banana. The banana notes come from the “abbey-style yeast” which is common in most Belgian styles, such as the dubbel. Boulevard tends to always have a colorful story about each of their brews and Nommo is no different. On the bottle and online they state that Nommo was an ancestral spirits that the Dogon tribe (West Africa) worshiped. The Nommo was an amphibious creature that was a hermaphroditic set of twins and the name meant “to make one drink.” Quite fitting when you considered how Trappist Monks called this style of beer a “dubbel” or “double.”
Boulevard consistently makes beers that never disappoint. While there are many breweries out there that are popular, they only have a few stellar ales under their belt. Boulevard isn’t afraid to use unique ingredients and always make their bottles extremely appealing. The malty and spicy notes of Nommo make it a very palatable brew and something I will definitely drink again.