Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 4 Reviews

Sunday, Oct. 3, 11:30 a.m.
Rooster Stage
Reviewed by Chris Streng

Ollabelle were a perfect choice for a Sunday morning opener. Their bluesy, gospel-influenced sound was fully appreciated by the mellow, early morning crowd who had already staked their ground with lawn chairs reading the morning paper.

The fog hadn't lifted but it was pleasantly warm as Ollabelle dedicated a their moving "Elijah Rock" to gospel legend Mahalia Jackson. This New York-based band were clearly woven out of many diverse threads: their singer Fiona McBain is originally from Australia and they featured a singing drummer, Tony Leone, from Connecticut. Ollabelle also had some of the most diverse instrumentation of the entire festival, with Byron Isaacs on electric bass, Glenn Patscha on Fender Rhodes piano and harmonium, Jimi Zhivago on Dobro slide guitar and mandolin, a full drum kit and singer Amy Helm all squeezed up on stage together. Many of these multi-instrumentalists could switch from one instrument to another seamlessly and their sound was far from muddled. They rocked with confidence and their extended, Rhodes-led jams recalled the mellower moments of, oddly enough, the Doors.

But traditional blues and gospel is in their hearts. They did a stirring version of the Blind Willie Johnson song, "Soul of a Man" which had the crowd singing along. Later, they invited friends Dirk Pallet and Riley Boggus on stage for some impromptu jamming. The aura of a loose-knit family gathering pervaded the set with band members frequently switching instruments and sharing each others microphones. If it's possible to do such a thing, Ollabelle threw a gospel hoedown and their spirited honky-tonk version of "Wayfaring Stranger" closed the set with a bang.

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