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Tuesday May 23, 2017
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Ollabelle

 

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been mutually exclusive. Aussie Fiona McBain's sultry take on the traditional "Elijah Rock" is filled with all kinds of longing. It's a sound that is grounded in history — including quite a lot of African American history — and allowed to flow in all sorts of interesting, organic directions.

The roots of Ollabelle can be traced to 9C, a funky little bar at Ninth Street and Avenue C on Manhattan's Lower East Side. A welcoming enclave for the city's burgeoning roots music aficionados, 9C started hosting a gospel night a few years back. McBain, Amy Helm, Jimi Zhivago, Glenn Patscha, Byron Isaacs, and Tony Leone — all 9C regulars who'd played in a shifting array of New York bands for years — found themselves exploring songs they'd never sung before: "Jesus on the Mainline," "Soul of a Man," "John the Revelator," and other gospel chestnuts. It was a soothing sound to a city that had been rocked by unimaginable violence. Soon 9C was mobbed on Sundays, and Ollabelle (named for country singer Ola Belle Reed) was an official entity. Early tracks of its first album made their way to T. Bone Burnett (who'd produced and curated the O Brother, Where Art Thou? CD). Within days, Burnett was on a plane to New York to sign Ollabelle — and its eponymous first album — with DMZ/

Columbia Records. Fast-forward: Touring. Success. Reviews. Renown.

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