Alabama 3 – Exile on Coldharbour Lane

How do you feel about country music? Not that great? Me too.

Alabama 3 (inexplicably known as A3 if you’re American, making them sound a bit like a third rate boy band) are entirely not from the midwest, and seem to have relatively little background of making country music. Apparently originally called The First Presleyterian Church of Elvis the Divine (UK), the whole project seems to have simply grown out of a desire to try a fusion of country and acid house.

Their debut album Exile on Coldharbour Lane opens with the bold statement “Let’s go back to church,” on a track called Converted, which is a fairly gentle religion-infused country track driven by a 303 bass line. Most of the album follows a similar vein.

Despite all feeling very familiar to me, the whole thing seems to have been a bit of a commercial flop. The album peaked at number 153 in the UK, and the only hit single was Ain’t Goin’ to Goa, which only just scraped the tail end of the top 40 on its second attempt, seemingly not helped by a slew of huge-name remixes. Despite opening the TV series The Sopranos, the exceptional Woke Up This Morning only managed to peak at number 80 (twice). Which must have all been rather disappointing.

The wonderfully atmospheric Woke Up This Morning passes the baton onto the hilarious U Don’t Dans 2 Tekno, which in brilliant country style (I want to say bluegrass, but I don’t honestly know enough about the genre) tells the tale of a friend who enjoyed The Drugs a bit too much. “You don’t dance to techno, hip hop or electro,” they sing, and it’s difficult not to smile.

Bourgeoisie Blues is almost entirely impossible to spell correctly, but brings a sweet gospel flavo(u)r to the album, and this is followed by Ain’t Goin’ to Goa. As I recall it got a lot of radio play, and I remember it well, presumably from its second release, so it was slightly surprising to me to see it was such a minor hit. Or perhaps the memory cheats.

The excellence continues. Mao Tse Tung Said is absolutely brilliant, Hypo Full of Love (The 12 Step Plan) catchy and wonderful. And the final track is the fantastic Peace in the Valley. All in all, Exile on Coldharbour Lane is an extremely good album, and comes highly recommended.

Buying Exile on Coldharbour Lane isn’t as easy as it should be. Here it is on Amazon.com, which seems to be the rare and exciting “explicit” edition, and this is the link for Amazon.co.uk.

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