England’s daredevil musical miscegenationists, Alabama 3 – trading under the name “A3” in the U.S. – are releasing a definitive retrospective of their beats-driven gospel/blues/country fusion titled Hits & Exit Wounds. This collection is being released late this Summer by One Little Indian. Hits & Exit Wounds features material from Exile on Coldharbour Lane, La Peste, Power in the Blood and Outlaw plus previously unreleased material and includes their signature song “Woke Up This Morning,” the opening theme to the Emmy Award-winning television drama The Sopranos. I attach here their video for the latter song:
ÂLike any good counter-cultural, proto-situationist country and western techno outlaw band from Brixton in fact. The Alabama 3 script(ure) was conceived by Larry Love (Rob Spragg) and The Very Reverend Dr. D. Wayne Love (Jake Black) in the sweat soaked hedonism of the free party experience of 1988, blueprinted over two twelves for Nottingham’s DIY imprint and finally delivered as a fully fledged sermon by the mid-90’s in the shape of The First Presleyterian Church Of Elvis The Divine (UK) with its band of misfit disciples Â The Mountain of Love (Piers Marsh), Sir Real Congaman Love (Simon Edwards), The Spirit (Orlando Harrison), Rock Freebass (Mark Sams) and L.B. Dope (Jonny Delafons).
ÂThe first book of gospels made its long playing debut in 1997 with “Exile On Coldharbour Lane”, a twelve song strong album of wayward country and western, blues and bluegrass poisoned by the narcotic thrust of contemporary clubland, dancing to the obtuse beats of a very different drum. With tongues sharpened to needlepoint precision, Larry and D. Wayne delivered lyrics that cut to the heart of the culture’s underbelly with wry humour and rapier wit. With “La Peste” (2000) Alabama 3 took their country and blues obsessions into ever-darker territory offering along the way the only version of The Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ to actually sound as cocaine addled as the song’s subject matter. “Power In the Blood” (2002) found the band going deeply introspective. Their once humorous observations now peppered with disillusionment and anger, their once bittersweet Americana samplefests overridden by swathes of techno. In 2003 Alabama 3 took the unusual step of delivering a versions album. “Last Train to Mashville Vol. 2” presented the band’s greatest moments in stripped down acoustic form, thus bringing their country blues heartbeat to the fore courtesy of guest appearances from the offshoot Alabama extravaganza, The Larry Love Showband.
ÂThe latest offering was simply called “Outlaw”. Once again it features wit as sharp as a needle. Once again it’s built around a melange of country, bluegrass, the blues and home-grown techno. However, where previous outings occasionally found the disparate elements engaged in a stylistic tug of war, this set sounds completely natural. No longer a case of welding together opposites in a perverse game of Push The Parameters, but simply an exercise in common ground. These are sounds that emerged from the (under)ground up. Decades apart perhaps, but from the same unifying tortured soul. The songs of life’s outsiders. The sounds of history’s outlaws. And it’s a great record. Far more extravert than either “La Peste” and “Power in the Blood”, more pure than “Exile on Coldharbour Lane”, “Outlaw” finds the band jumping the trains of sepia tinted American mythology and drawing a direct line to the all too often unsung outlaws of British history. “For me the heart of this record came from a conversation I had with Great Train Robber Bruce Reynolds at a literary festival in Clerkenwell.” Explains Rob “It occurred to me that the US has a tradition of outlaw records but in England we’ve got nothing apart from ‘Robin Hood, Robin Hood riding through the glen’.”