Ollabelle, 'Neon Blue Bird'

85 Billboard Rating

Decade-old New York rootsy collective Ollabelle returns to recording after a four-year hiatus, choosing to mine early-'70s musical styles-funk, light country and singer/songwriter soft rock. By alternating lead vocals over rich accompaniment, Ollabelle's newest album, Neon Blue Bird, has the pleasant air of a come-as-you-are jam session, abundant in warmth and substantial connections to the musicians' backgrounds in blues, jazz, bluegrass and New Orleans swamp rock. The set opens with the barren sound of a banjo that is quickly married to a funk line dominated by an organ. The song, a cover of Paul Kelly's "You're Gonna Miss Me," is a shining example of Ollabelle's ability to push away from generic reproductions of the music that inspires it and create a sound as rooted in the roadhouse as it is the front porch. Overall, the group alternates between songs with hip-swaying appeal and calm midtempo numbers. Throwback qualities of Glenn Patscha's gently buoyant "One More Time" and Fiona McBain's harmony-rich "Wait for the Sun" pair well with straight-forward versions of Taj Mahal's "Lovin' in My Baby's Arms" and Chris Whitley's "Dirt Floor."

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