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Album Review

New York sextet Ollabelle's music is a hybrid of indigenous American styles, mixing folk, blues, and gospel, and drawing upon traditional sources to create something that sounds wholly new. If one is tempted to say "you've never heard anything quite like this before," it isn't because the ingredients are unfamiliar, it's because the mixture and the approach are. The alternating male and female vocalists usually sing traditional material, with arrangements that recall the kind of updated authenticity of Ry Cooder as much as the original sources. Somehow, these performances steer in between the alternating obstacles of sounding too retro on the one hand or taking an ironic posture on the other. The performers seem utterly immersed in the music, utterly sincere in their singing (though it would be surprising to find that their commitment to the religious lyrics was anything but figurative), yet they clearly are reaching back to their archaic sources through the context of contemporary music. Their few originals are of a piece with the traditional material, and even a revival of the Rolling Stones' "I Am Waiting" fits right in. It's no surprise that T-Bone Burnett's DMZ label is issuing this debut, since Burnett has demonstrated his affinity for American roots music and ability to recontextualize it for the 21st century. And it is appropriate that the Band's Levon Helm, doubtless the father of the group's Amy Helm, drums on "Soul of a Man." Ollabelle is trying to create a new sound out of long-standing folk-based musical styles in much the same way that the Band did with Music From Big Pink in 1968. The wonder is how well the group succeeds. Ollabelle is a moving collection of performances that will remind the listener of the emotional depth and scope of American music. If there is any disc capable of turning the term "Americana" into a full-fledged musical genre, this is it.

Customer Reviews


Thanks to Third Day's suggestion, I found Ollabelle and have really enjoyed listening to great music that sounds like nothing else out there. Before This Time and Get Back Temptation are Grade A foot stompers with a touch of blues and gospel! If you buy no other tracks, buy these two! The rest of the songs are slower but greatly arranged especially John the Revelator, Elijah Rock, and All is Well. I think the country genre is incorrect, more like Gospel/Folk. Highly recommended, Buy and Enjoy!

Recommended by Stephen King, for goodness' sake!!

I first heard about Ollabelle from a review Stephen King had written in a music industry magazine. He noted them as one of his favorite CDs from that year (I think it was 2004) and had described them as 'gospel', but cautioned that this should not put off anybody pegging them as a 'Christian' musical group. This group combines the most wonderful elements of blues, folk, country, and yes, gospel in a brew that will leave you wanting more. In fact, I have just seen that I-tunes has another of their releases, and I am on my way to checking that out right after I write this! And may I add that Ollabelle has been a keystone in my enjoyment of various gospel groups that can be appreciated without respect to one's religious beliefs. To hear where gospel has evolved alongside blues and country music enriches the listening experience for me. Enjoy!


Formed: 2002 in New York, NY

Genre: Country

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Named after Appalachian folksinger Ola Belle Reed, Ollabelle are a Manhattan-based band whose music puts an urban spin on Southern genres like bluegrass, gospel, and country. Despite their rootsy influences, the five bandmates first got together in the decidedly non-rootsy East Village, where a local bar called 9C began holding weekly gospel music sessions during the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. What began as a side project for six of the bar's patrons -- singer Amy Helm (the daughter...
Full Bio
Ollabelle, Ollabelle
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Customer Ratings