Alabama 3 – Country Night

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Concert Review by Neil Ryan

The Camden Underworld – Monday 12 March 2001

‘A Month of Mondays’ is an ambitious residency undertaken by Brixton’s Alabama 3 at the Camden Underworld whereby they will play live on four consecutive Mondays, and on each occasion they will adopt a different guise in order to perform their own support slot. The first gig (on March 12th) saw them bring a bit of Nashville to NW1 by opening procedures as the Larry Love Show Band accompanied by new UK country hopeful Eileen Rose. Although this proved popular with the packed audience there was no doubt that the main focus of interest was centred on how the band would capitalise on their recently raised profile.

In the past couple of years fellow Brits-by-way-of-the-Bayou, Gomez have gained recognition and reward whilst the ‘Bam have failed to extend themselves beyond being perceived as filler material for the cover-mounted CD freebies beloved of the monthly glossies. Their sound (a melange of sour-mash sodden county/blues/hip-hop played through an electromagnetic haze and with the vocal stylings of Elmer Gantry gettin’ jiggy wit’ it) has so far failed to energise critics and public alike into proffering widespread acclaim.

However, the likelihood of all that changing has never been greater following the unlikely appropriation of WOKE UP THIS MORNING as a theme tune for TV’s hottest show of the moment, THE SOPRANOS. Through a combination of repetition and association Alabama 3 suddenly found a hook with which to snag the dormant interest of the layman.

Tonight, the 3 open with that song and thus galvanise the enthusiastic crowd into head-bobbing, foot-tapping approval. However, opening with the song can be a double-edged sword if there is scant fare to follow and the worry was that they might have played their trump card too soon. Fortunately such equivocation proved unfounded as the Alabama collective (up to 9 of them on stage at times) ran through a set that contained a surprising number of highlights. Hymns to finger-lickin’ debauchery are interspersed with sermons of desolation and the occasional burst of a sun-drenched, life-affirming hallelujah chorus. All are performed with a confident swagger that confirms that these good ol’ boys have both the sass and the suss to realise that their hour of reckoning is nigh. And that means that for one month only in this corner of North London Monday might just become the favourite day of the week.