In retrospect, it seems like a supergroup. Drummer Tony Leone has joined The Chris Robinson Brotherhood. Glenn Patscha has been playing keyboards with Ry Cooder and been working with Sheryl Crow, Roseann Cash and Los Cadillacs Fabulosos. Byron Isaacs has joined The Lumineers on bass. Fiona McBain is a founding member of The Big Bright and of esteemed jazz-folk duo Then There Were Two. Guitarist Jimi Zhivago has worked with Glenn Hansard and Kim Taylor and has scored numerous films and documentaries for PBS. And Amy Helm has embarked on a successful solo career, with a new album just released by Yep Roc.
But for years they were everyone’s favorite group in waiting: Ollabelle.
Like The Byrds, like The Band, like Fairport Convention before them, Ollabelle reconfigured roots music, in their case taking early American gospel, folk and mountain music and dragging it into the future with the utmost respect and the utmost abandon. Imagine Sun Ra’s music played by The Staple Singers. Or The Doc Watson's music played by Sun Ra.Their music has always been joyful, accessible and exhilarating, and has earned them the respect and envy of fellow musicians : T Bone Burnett signed them to his own imprint on Sony; Richard Thompson booked them for Britain’s Meltdown Festival; Elvis Costello, Buddy Miller, Emmylou Harris, Allison Krauss, Larry Campbell and Levon Helm (Amy’s father and the spiritual godfather of Ollabelle) all took turns sitting in with them in clubs and concert halls around the world, and their residencies at Banjo Jim’s, at Levon’s Ramble and at City Winery often took on the jaw dropping sense of being present at The Last Waltz. There was nothing they couldn’t do well. And there was no one who didn’t want to share the stage with them. At one memorable gig on the lower east side, in a packed and dingy room, Dr. John, Levon Helm, Norah Jones, and Donald Fagen were all crowded around the stage, cheering them on.
Ollabelle may be a part of their past. But it’s also an inescapable part of their future. Please welcome... Ollabelle.