Midnight Album Spotlight: Alabama 3 – Exile on Coldharbour Lane

Greetings. I’m Michele Myers. I get to host a show every Friday night on KEXP called Nite Life. A 4-hour show with danceable, Friday-night-going-out-on-the-town sounds. And just to keep things interesting, I choose one of my favorite records at midnight for the Midnight Album Spotlight.

This week I bring you a group called the Alabama 3. Now, legally they go by the name A3, this is reportedly because the rock band Alabama legally OWNS the state name as far as bands go. Call them what you will, their album Exile on Coldharbour Lane is completely unique. The drama of gospel mixes with the booty-shakin aspect of techno, country riffs swing lyrics about love, the state of government and dance club drugs. Since this band is almost impossible to explain, I’ll let them introduce themselves…

We’re the Alabama 3. We make Sweet Mutherfucking
Country Acid House music. All night long. We’re not
from Alabama, and there’s not three of us. We’re from
Brixton, London. We’re the fellas that did that Soprano’s
theme tune. That tune bought someone a swimming pool,
but it sure wasn’t any of us…

(This is Michele talking again) I love to play the whole of this song. Though I really liked the first few seasons of The Sopranos, the full song never gets played. Even the video (below) skips the intro, which is haunting and existential and real. It’s a morning-after salute to life, death, Charles Mingus, Howlin Wolf and Billie Holiday.

The intro says:

(Spoken) And after three days of drinking with Larry Love, I
just get an inkling to go on home. So I’m walking down
Coldharbour Lane, head hung low; three or four in the
morning; the sun’s coming up and the birds are out singing.
I let myself into my pad. Wind my way up that spiral staircase
and stretch myself out nice on the Chesterfield.
Pithecanthropus Erectus already on the CD player and I push
that remote button to sublimity. And I listen to the sweet,
sculptural rhythms of Charles Mingus. And J.R. Monterose
and Jackie McLean duet unknown saxophones and the sound
makes its way out of the window, mingling with the traffic
noises outside, you know, and all of a sudden I’m overcome by
a feeling of brief mortality.

‘Cause I’m getting on in the world. Coming up on forty-one
years. Forty-one stony, grey steps towards the grave, you-
know, the box, awaits its grisly load and I’m gonna be food for
worms. And just like Charles Mingus wrote that beautiful
piece of music ‘Epitaph’ for Eric Dolphy. I say “so long Eric,
so long John Coltrane and Charles Mingus, so long Duke
Ellington and Lester Young, so long Billie Holiday and Ella
Fitzgerald, so long Jimmy Reed, so long Muddy Waters, and
so long Howlin Wolf.”

Not only does this band Alabama 3 wear country clothes and dance to club beats. They are also hilarious. The members are Kev D. Wayne Love, Larry Love, and (heh) Mountain of Love just for starters, and of course they have dancing girls in cowboy hats and bikini tops.

I love this song especially: “You Don’t Dance To Techno Anymore.” It’s about a DJ who falls in love with a girl at a rave. She ends up taking a heart-shaped pill and dies right in front of him. Now she don’t dance to techno anymore… The country harmonica makes it sorrowful, the club beats make it cold and urban. Here are some lyrics:

(Spoken) Being a loverman and a DJ, lots of girls come down
the front when I’m on the ones and twos. There was this one
particular girl, though, she was so beautiful, she used to knock
mah eyes out every damn time. One night she flipped this
funny little heart-shaped pill and jes died there right in front of
me. Now she don’t dance to techno anymore…

And you don’t dance to techno anymore
I don’t see you under the strobe light on the dancefloor
It’s been a while since I saw your ultraviolet smile
You don’t dance to techno anymore

This album is definitely worth owning. There is really nothing like it to get you started on a weekend morning. It’s degenerate, celebratory, funny and smart. Highly recommended. Man, I’d so love to see these guys live.

I’ll leave you with a message from the band:

We want to make you feel good. We know you’ve had trouble
in your life, real bad trouble. We know you’ve got debts. We
know you’ve had your heart broken so many times you’re still
finding pieces of it in your pillow. Maybe you’ve done some
good things in your life, maybe you’ve done some bad things.
We forgive you. Forgive yourself. Then dress up real sexy and
come and party with us sometime. We’ll look after you.
That’s a promise.

Michele Myers hosts Nite Life every Friday at 9pm on KEXP. She’s also the producer of KEXP Documentaries. The KEXP Documentary team brings you a musical subject each week in the time to play just one song.

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One Comment

  1. Kelly
    Posted August 13, 2008 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    Its good to have a stress relieving show like yours. After all the day’s highs and lows its refreshing to watch and hear something comforting and inspiring. I’m sure i will definitely enjoy your show and i hope to get some real mental de-stressing tips also, that is what today’s youth needs..
    Alabama Drug Treatment

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