A multi-talented, democratic collective whose participants share vocal and songwriting duties, Ollabelle gains strength from its members' shared sense of mission, as well as their diverse musical and personal backgrounds. Although the group initially began as a casual sideline to the musicians' individual projects, it quickly evolved into a full-time creative entity with an unmistakable life of its own.
All five Ollabelle members had come from varied backgrounds and geographical locations to make music in New York City, and had crossed paths or worked together in various combinations. Woodstock-bred Amy Helm came had a long history singing in blues combos. Byron Isaacs had worked as bassist with a variety of artists while pursuing his own songwriting efforts. Tony Leone had an extensive resume as a jazz drummer. Fiona McBain had moved to New York from Sydney, Australia and had begun to win attention as a solo singer/songwriter. Canadian-born Glenn Patscha had long been active in the New Orleans music scene.
Although all five were pursuing individual projects at the time, their musical affinity evolved into a solid band chemistry, and the group (which also included guitarist Jimi Zhivago) quickly gained a local reputation for its exuberant live sets. They recorded their debut album on spec at a local studio, and the project won the attention of renowned artist/producer T Bone Burnett, who was impressed enough to release Ollabelle on his Sony-distributed DMZ label.
The second album, Riverside Battle Songs — produced by veteran producer/multi-instrumentalist Larry Campbell and mixed by longtime admirer T Bone Burnett — showcases the group's own compositions. Such memorable originals as "Heaven's Pearls," "Fall Back," "Dream the Fall," "Blue Northern Lights" and "Reach for Love" offer subtly riveting examples of the bandmates' vocal and instrumental interplay, mining an evocative palette of acoustic and electric textures to create singularly expressive music.