Sunday, July 27, 2008

Concert Report - Ollabelle in Manchester, NH

Yikes, before too much time elapses, I need to do a quick write up of the Ollabelle concert on July 17th. It's been over a week now since I made that quick post on the night of the concert.

Ollabelle first came to our attention when they opened for Nanci Griffith in Boston a couple of years ago (note to self: go find that ticket stub). They were still relatively unknown at that point, with just their self-produced debut CD. They were still green and nervous and star-struck. Although they didn't realize it, they had the entire audience in the palm of their hands from the moment they started singing. During intermission I bought their CD and had Fiona sign the cover. When she looked at me she remarked, "I remember you. You're in the front row, right? I was so relieved to see someone enjoying us!" She signed the CD cover with "thank you for listening!"

They've come a long way since then.

Ollabelle is part roots music, part rock, part gospel, part urban. They take their name from Ola Belle Reed (1916-2002), a North Carolina folk/gospel/bluegrass singer and musician best known for the song High on a Mountain. Ollabelle is a collaborative partnership of five very talented musicians.

From left to right in the photo above:
Glenn Patscha - vocals, keyboards, accordion
Amy Helm - vocals, mandola
Fiona McBain - vocals, acoustic and electric guitars
Byron Isaacs - vocals, bass, dobro
Tony Leone - vocals, drums, percussion

On some songs you can close your eyes and swear that Ollabelle is channeling The Band, and I'm sure that's due in no small part to Amy. Note her last name. Yes, she is Levon Helm's daughter. A new mom, Amy was particularly attentive to babies and little kids in the audience. Here she is watching a grandmother strolling her grand kid:

Amy Helm
Amy Helm
Likewise, little girls in the family-oriented crowd seemed fascinated to see two women front and center on the stage:

This pic didn't come out as well as I'd like, but still I just love Fiona's smile:

Fiona McBain
Fiona McBain
Every single member of the band has a great voice. Fiona, though, has the ability to send shivers up my spine:

Fiona McBain
Fiona McBain

Their set was a mixture of songs from their first two albums, and some new (to me) covers. The traditional Ain't No More Cane was done in The Band's style. Fiona gave me chills on her vocal cover of Garcia and Hunter's Ripple, as well as on Elijah Rock.

Like every band nowadays, there's plenty to sample on YouTube. Here are some recommendations:
  • If you only have time to watch one video, watch this one of the rousing Before This Time. This showcases Amy's lead vocals, lots of hand clapping, and the entire band singing the chorus.
  • Wanna see what I mean by Fiona's ability to send chills? Then watch her sing Elijah Rock.
  • Does Ollabelle's's ability to channel The Band grab your attention? If so, then listen to Ain't No More Cane.
  • Like what you have heard so far? Then you must watch Get Back Temptation.
Ollabelle's set:

July 17, 2008
Veterans Park, Manchester, NH

Gone Today (Bryon Isaacs/Fiona McBain/Ollabelle)
John The Revelator (Traditional)
High on a Mountain (Olla Belle Reed)
Ripple (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter)
You're Gonna Miss Me (?)
Ain't No More Cane on the Brazos (Traditional)
Brotherly Love
Northern Star (Amy Helm/Byron Isaacs/Ollabelle)
Elijah Rock (Traditional)
Get Back Temptation (Glenn Patscha/Ollabelle)
Corrina (Taj Mahal/Jesse Ed Davis)
Riverside (Traditional)
Before This Time (Bessie Jones/Alan Lomax)
Encore: Brokedown Palace (Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter)

The opening act was Mike Morris, and we quite enjoyed him. At times reminiscent of Ellis Paul, at other times his innovative guitar playing made us think of Michael Hedges. We will keep our eye out for him again.

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