PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Alabama 3: Blues

Alabama 3 show once again why they're the sheriffs of this two-bit blues-rock town.

Alabama 3


Label: Hostage Music
US Release Date: 2016-10-28
UK Release Date: 2016-10-28

When they burst onto the music scene in 1995, Alabama 3 kept listeners guessing. For a start, they’re not from Alabama, nor are there three members in the band. On top of this, the UK group are best known for the stylistically eclectic brand of music, which blends blues, electronica, hip-hop, jazz, country and rock. The band’s sound is among the most unique of any of their contemporaries.

It is perhaps unsurprising, then, given that they have spent their career running with an effective, trademark style, that Alabama 3 would continue to do so on their 12th studio album, Blues.

Blues is both an apt name for the record and a slightly misleading one. While the record is at its most captivating when the group are integrating blues influences into their work, Alabama 3 go far beyond the constraints of this single genre. Whether it comes in the form of repeated choral hooks, macabre lyrics and energy or literal monologues about what the blues is, the band’s loyalty to the blues is admirable.

More impressive, however, is the way they are able to meld the blues with other styles without compromising their bluesy ethos. “Exodus (Movement of War People)”, with its combination of harmonica solos, simple vocal musings and synthesisers fits the bill here in classy fashion. The track is, at times, calamitous and apocalyptic in its energy, though never without tact or purpose. The band is at the peak of its powers, and perhaps their name is at its most misleading, when they allow themselves to become completely immersed in their party-style atmosphere. This is clearly the work of many more than just three people. And it’s polished work at that.

But Alabama 3 aren’t just here to play raucously loud, outlaw blues-hybrids. On this album, they prove themselves as being capable of transferring their genre fusions into more subdued settings. This level of restraint is evident on “Forever in Blues”, when the blues shines through with more grit than ever before, albeit in a more mellow context. At the same time, modernised keyboard sounds ensure that the track is never wholly faithful to one specific style.

To that end, the band’s love of old-style sounds is never used an excuse for them to slip into habit. While it would be tempting to let the no-frills, simplicity of the blues mask lazy songwriting, the band are refreshingly conscious of refining their sound and going in a slightly new direction on every track. The record’s closer, “Turn The Jukebox On” is a case in point, when vocalist Larry Love tries his hand at subdued hip-hop verse. The band are experimenting until literally the very end.

This experimentation, however, works best when the blues is still used as a point of reference, to give grounding to their work. The overly melodic vocal lines at the beginning of “Lost and Found” are one of the album’s few weak moments, feeling as if they belong in a cheesy '80s ballad rather than amongst the gritty work of these blues rock veterans. Nevertheless, after 20 years and 12 albums, Alabama 3 are still as hard-working, mysterious and punchy as ever. Yes, they’re running with the intricate formula that we’ve come to expect. But in their defence, it’s a bloody good formula.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.