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Ollabelle: Ollabelle

[cover art]

2004 debut album from the Ollabelle sextet, with Levon Helm's daughter Amy on vocals. Levon guests on drums on two tracks. Release date March 9th, see for sound samples and more details.


by William Ruhlmann, All-Music Guide


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 re-contextualize it for the 21st century. And it is appropriate that The Band's Levon Helm, 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.


  1. Before This Time
    Bessie Jones and Alan Lomax; inspiration: Georgia Sea Island Singers; lead vocal: Amy Helm

  2. Jesus On The Mainline
    Traditional, arranged by Ollabelle; inspiration: Mississippi Fred McDowell; lead vocal: Glenn Patscha

  3. Soul Of A Man
    Traditional, arranged by Ollabelle; inspiration: Blind Willie Johnson; lead vocal: Amy Helm, with Levon Helm, drums

  4. Elijah Rock
    Spiritual, arranged by Ollabelle; inspiration: Mahalia Jackson; lead vocal: Fiona McBain

  5. Get Back Temptation
    Words and music by Glenn Patscha, arranged by Ollabelle; lead vocal: Glenn Patscha

  6. I Am Waiting
    Written by Mick Jagger/Keith Richards

  7. Two Steps
    Words and music by Amy Helm, Fiona McBain, Liz Tormes, Byron Isaacs, Tony Leone, Jimi Zhivago; guest vocalist: Liz Tormes

  8. No More My Lord
    C Ludlow/Richmond Organization inspiration: 1947 field recording made at Parchman Prison by Alan Lomax; lead guitar: Sean Costello, bass: Jimi Zhivago

  9. Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus
    Words and music by Andrae Crouch

  10. The Storms Are On The Ocean
    Carter Family version; inspired by Bryan Bowers; lead vocal: Fiona McBain

  11. John the Revelator
    Traditional, arranged by Ollabelle; inspiration: Blind Willie Johnson; lead vocal: Glenn Patscha

  12. I'm Willing To Run All The Way
    Traditional, arranged by Ollabelle; inspiration: the Staple Singers; lead vocal: Amy Helm

  13. I Don't Want To Be That Man
    Words and music by Glenn Patscha, arranged by Ollabelle; lead vocal: Glenn Patscha, special guest: Sean Costello

  14. All Is Well
    Traditional, arranged by Ollabelle; version inspired by sheet music from "American Vocalist" by DH Mansfield, 1849


  • Amy Helm - voice
  • Byron Isaacs - voice, bass
  • Tony Leone - voice, drums
  • Fiona McBain - voice, acoustic guitar
  • Glenn Patscha - voice, organ, Wurlitzer, piano
  • Jimi Zhivago - voice, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, dobro, mandolin
  • Levon Helm - drums
Ollabelle - Ollabelle - 2004 - DMZ/Columbia 90572

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