The group Ollabelle captures the sound and feeling of the American gospel music that came not just out of churches but from the front porches, cotton fields and honkytonks of the American South. Yet the group's origins can be traced to a corner tavern on Manhattan's Lower East Side.
In the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001 a now-closed bar at East Ninth Street and Avenue C, called 9C, started hosting an open mike for artists willing to sing gospel music. It was called "Sunday School for Sinners." Various members of the group had been playing at the club in some form or another, but the sound of Ollabelle came together during those Sunday night gospel jam sessions.
A little over two years later, and Ollabelle — Amy Helm, Byron Isaacs, Tony Leone, Fiona McBain, Glenn Patscha and Jimi Zhivago — is on its way. The group is touring, and just released its debut CD, Ollabelle. NPR's Michele Norris, host of All Things Considered, talks with the band about their sound and how they came together.