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Published: 2004/08/27
by Matt Brockett

Ollabelle – Ollabelle

Columbia Records 90572

Ollabelle's entire debut album is soothing and relaxing, simultaneously feeling traditional and rootsy, yet fresh and full of life. From the New Orleans street parade feel of the opening track "Before This Time" to the old-timey sea ballad sound of "The Storms Are On The Ocean," this is a band that has carved out a sound that is deeply rooted in the American folk music tradition, yet unquestionably their own.

All the members of Ollabelle contribute on vocals, but Amy Helm, Fiona McBain, and Glenn Patscha handle the majority of the duties. Their super soulful three-part harmonies fit perfectly with the bluesy laidback soul of tunes like "No More My Lawd."

Fiona McBain's leads on "Elijah Rock" bring the listener to a smoky New York City jazz club out of an old movie. Who even knew it was possible, but Ollabelle bridges the gap between the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack and Portishead, and they do it beautifully. Both "Elijah Rock" and their interpretation of the often covered traditional "John The Revelator" are the shining examples of this achievement.

One thing Ollabelle does is play a lot of traditionals. In fact, half of the album's tracks are traditionals, but they still know how to bring the funk in their own rootsy way, with the creeping Wurli riffs of "Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus" and the simply oozing-with-funk "Get Back Temptation." The best way to describe the sound of their ventures into this realm would probably be slightly funked out Baptist church hymnals.

Much of the album has what can only be described as a soulful "churchy" kind of feel on tracks like "I'm Willing To Run All The Way." The hauntingly beautiful last track "All Is Well" has the delicacy and intensity of a song that could be played at a funeral, and would bring everyone to tears.

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