So, you dedicate an hour of your life to a bunch of self-confessed “washed-up cokeheads in their 40s” - it could go one of two ways. Alabama 3 have dined out on their elegantly wasted shtick their whole career, yet a good deal of this, their sixth album, suggests they may finally have run out of steam.
First track proper ‘Fly’ is as underwhelming an opening as you could imagine, a mildly sassy yet ultimately tepid male/female duet. ‘Are You A Souljah?’ is similarly bloodless, attempting to disguise its flaccidity behind the sampling of the impassioned preachings of one Rev. B. Atwell. Single ‘Lockdown’ also falls flat - despite the techno-ish opening, when it finally clicks into gear it becomes going-through-the-motions pub band fodder. The band seem to realise this themselves, the suitably inoffensive ‘The Middle Of The Road’ referencing delusions of “living on the edge”.
Sift through the dross, though, and, what do you know: there are a few moments to write home about after all. The gospel-y ‘Holy Blood’ stands out a mile as the record’s finest track. A genuinely jaw-dropping number of confession and utter despair, singer Larry Love sounds at the end of his tether: “I’ve got to keep those Christmas lights on in my head”. Its sheer quality makes it jar contextually, although on closer reflection it actually serves to make sense of the rest of the record - so profound is the sadness here, it’s understandable why the more upbeat numbers sound so unconvincing. It’s no coincidence, then, that the similarly doom-laden ‘The Doghouse Chronicles’ also hits the spot, the refrain “You will visit my grave every Sunday” suggesting that the end could be imminent.
The record’s cover versions are also well-chosen and well-executed - Gil Scott Heron’s ‘The Klan’ serving as a strung-out country ballad, embellished in typically oxymoronic style by the contribution of MC Pablo, while bluesman Jimmy Reed’s ‘Amos Moses’ translates as a suitably nihilistic stomp.
It’s a patchy record, then, but one which will, at least in places, please the A3 soldiers. It’s just a shame that the uninitiated will probably not have the patience required to sift through it all in order to find the truly potent stuff.
6Dan Cooper-Gavin's Score