Reviewed by Trevor Raggatt
Ollabelle's eponymous first album was first released in 2004 and has, hitherto, only been available in the UK as an import. The quality of the 14 songs presented here makes this UK release on Rounder Records all the more welcome. Formed out of an East Village gospel jam night, they were discovered by T-Bone Burnett, who signed them to his own label. Although the five members distance themselves from any CCM tag, insisting that they came together out of a shared love of the music irrespective of their personal beliefs, they clearly display passion and an intuitive feel for earthy blues gospel. Rootsy sounds abound with Hammond, harmonica, slide and dobro making their presence felt alongside the honeyed harmonies. The songs are, for the most part, classic blues and gospel tunes like "Jesus On The Mainline", "Soul Of A Man" and "No More My Lawd" with a few self-penned songs thrown in. The traditional rootsy approach strikes all the right notes but on some songs, such as "Elijah Rock" and a sublime version of Son House's "John The Revelator" the band also cut loose and add a psychedelic-tinge to the sound. Equally striking is the near a cappella opener, "Before This Time"; just handclaps and glorious vocals, but all soul. This is a truly stunning album and any lovers of blues, gospel or roots music could do well to search out a copy.
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