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ALABAMA 3 - Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall - 02 December 2003   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Tuesday, 14 September 2004
All aboard!

Here we are again - the circus rolls into town, the freaks, the weirdos, the losers. Bluesmen, Clansmen, riding the last train to Mashville. It's always last orders at the Last Chance Saloon when the Alabama 3 roll into town, their weird, perpetually leftfield hybrid of blues, country and western, techno, Elvis Religion and communism sure ain't for everybody. But everybody ain't always right.

In fact, it's the fact that a lot of people are wrong that makes life interesting. You know. The bourgeoise, the herd, you, yes you, with your two point four children, your dog, your terraced house or flat, your battered car, your Christmases by the fire, your fucking bland, boring Bon fucking Jovi CD's, you. You are wrong. It's You're Wrong night...

Whatever you cling to, whatever that thing is that you need to help you survive, it's a lie. It's a lie. And someone ruled by lies will always be a slave.

Maybe the truth can set you free.

There is so much more to life than that. And this, is just the tip of the iceberg. Not just some of the best lyrics there are, a infused, inspired mix of the best of a drug-addled junkie Elvis Commie manifesto, not just some of the funkiest rhythms the world has ever seen or heard, not just the graceful sleek blues guitar of Rock Freebase, or the pocketful of faith. Alabama 3 are all these things and more : a heady potent mix of everything that on paper looks and seems so wrong, everything that, in the flesh, makes one feel alive.

From the first set, the seven song acoustic showcase of the bands raw, naked side seen on the "Last Train To Mashville", sees the Alabama 3, aided and abetted by Nick Reynolds on tin whistle, harmonica, guitar and backing vocals, and a violinist, is an expected but unexpected treat. The band reveal their mellow, 4am with a hangover, campfire singalonga side, which is simply divine. Sadly, there's no reprise of "Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness" (so I can't provide vocals as I did when they played Filthy McNasty's), but all the other songs you might expect are present and correct, from obscurities such as "Disneyland Is Burning" to the opening, shot-heard-around-the-world genius of "Woke Up This Morning".

After this, a a short DJ set by Rantin' Richie and The Mepmphis 9 (old unreleased A3 bleepfests, punk, Johnny Cash, and an eclectic mix of classics), sees the traditional, full-power, flags unfurled, militant groove assault of the Alabama 3, for whom I am seeing for the (crikey) twelveth time : I am spoilt.

If you don't know the drill you should : funky bass that can rumble buildings to pieces. Kick ass guitars. The darkest vein of humour mined from the boulevard of broken dreams and the church of Elvis The Divine. We follow a shining light through the path of darkness, men in cages, women in bondage, all of us in slavery to work, to hope, to our drugs of choice. Be they women, or war.

And there's new stuff : The awesome "Up Above My Head", a song about the perversion of spirituality by religion , forged on the redemptive power of music : The Greatest Healer. It makes me want to engineer a worldwide regime change by shaking my booty. One Planet Under A Groove indeed. There's the fabulous "Last Train To Mashville" itself, a final, desperate stab at oblivion or death. Or both. And the excellent "Born In The Blues" : I don't know what its about except The Blues, and being born in it, bred by it, raised by it, one has no choice but die in The Blues as well.

And we leave where we came in : united by the power of music, the power of prayer, the healing power of all these things, music makes a life we live a life worth living. Power In The Blood. Peace In The Valley. And Music For The Soul. They put the Rock Into Roll. And when you've rocked your last roll, when there is nowhere else to go, get converted. Join them, and be saved.

As Leonard Cohen, everyone's favourite octagenarian Zen Monk poet said.... Hallelujah.

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