The group originally grew out of an informal assemblage of singers and players who came together to play traditional gospel songs at a weekly jam in New York. Woodstock-bred Amy Helm (daughter of Levon) 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. Singer/songwriter Fiona McBain had moved to New York from Sydney, Australia. Canadian-born Glenn Patscha had long been active in the New Orleans music scene.
“You have to go back to another time to find so many beautiful, individual voices raised in praise and the rejection of despair as when Ollabelle sing, ‘Ain’t gonna study war no more.'”
– Elvis Costello