Gimme That Old Time Religion
How A Solo Performance of Strange Fruit Converted A Scouser
Most of my friends are atheist , but some are more anti-religious than others . Sometimes can lead to amusing situations.
Many years ago I invited my friend Tom to come and see the Alabama 3 for an acoustic gig at the small O2 , upstairs theatre in Newcastle. Tom is a vehement atheist , and prefers heavy metal and doomy rock so he wasn’t too sure why he had agreed to come to this gig with me , but he always keeps his word, and so after a couple of pints in Tilley’s Bar we went across the road to get to the gig.
There was a support band on and for some reason certain younglings came up to us asking first for matched , we had none , we didn't smoke . Then they asked for cigarette papers. We had none. Then they asked if we had any weed or drugs. Well me and Tom were two big denim clad lads , but drug dealers, when we didn’t even smoke, that was very odd, so we sent them on their way again.
The support band finished and the stripped down Alabama 3 came on , there were for of them set up acoustically . Now in the full band there are about 12 members in the Alabama 3 .
They originate from Brixton and their music incorporates elements of country, acid house, blues and gospel.
Named for the Alabama 2, a legal case in the American deep South during the 1930s, in which two black men were hanged for allegedly raping a white woman. The name is also a nod to other victims of injustice like the Birmingham 6 and Guildford 4. In the United States, they are known as A3, after they were sued by the country outfit Alabama.
They are perhaps best known in the United States for the remix of their song “Woke Up This Morning”, which appears as the theme song for the HBO hit series The Sopranos.
The next thing was the lead singer Larry Love (I think) started talking in a broad Manchester accent. Tom is a Scouser , so that was another black mark against them. I went to get drinks and was walking back as the broke into the chorus from “Converted” the opening song to their debut album “Exile on Coldharbour Lane” , that chorus is:
“Let’s Go Back To Church, Let’s Go Back To Church”
This brought me a death ray glare from Tom
Things were not looking good. An acoustic band , religious songs , warm beer , until….
Devlin Love got up and sang an unaccompanied “Strange Fruit”
Such a powerful song
And in that three minutes Tom became a lifelong Alabama 3 fan, and at the end gushed how he was glad I had tricked him into coming to what seemed to be a rubbish gig. It wasn’t . It was brilliant.
Tom is also a selective blues fan as well and is also very left wing and anti racist so “Strange Fruit” ticked so many boxes for him. I have managed to find a YouTube recording so you can hear what we heard.
The lead in song is “Converted” so you can understand Tom’s religious chagrin as I brought back the beer from the bar, the version I shared the sound is a little distorted so here is the studio version.
We have since seen the full band several times and they are one of the greatest live experiences I have ever seen with songs like “Mao T’se Tung Said” and “Hello I’m Johnny Cash” , find them on YouTube , you certainly wont regret it and if you get the chance to see them live then jump at it.
The Alabama 3 are just one of the best live experiences on the planet