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Alabama 3 + The Cedars

The Whitehorse, Streatham, 16.11.06
Review by Rick Webb, Photos by Andy Hall

When was the last time you saw a guy on an acoustic and some singers lay waste to a room full of discerning music types? Seriously, it takes a special kind of style to pull that stuff off, and style is something that Alabama 3 have never been short of.

Their 1997 masterwork Exile on Coldharbour Lane was never off the record player round my house back in the day and they, as much as anybody, made me realise that there was no difficulty combining acid house techno with blues country and gospel. Not only that, their whole thing was done with such extraordinary panache that they created an entire mythology which allowed them to range across cultural and musical time and space in a way that few others (none?) have been able to match.

Tonight it wasn't the full crew, just (singer) Larry Love, with Rock Freebase (guitar, excellent by the way), accompanied by a couple of mates doing assorted toasting/rapping/dancing/Bezzery and it's hard to remember seeing anybody who earned it as convincingly as they did.

We're talking here about a 'band' that can pull off Johnny Cash's 'Folsom Prison Blues' ("I shot a man in Streatham, just to watch him die!) segueing into KRS 1's 'Sound of the Police' ("Whoop! Whoop!" we all er... whoop) and making the whole crowd smile at just how right the connection was. Not something you normally see on a Thursday night in Streatham, or for that matter, anywhere. Love has the kind of voice that most British 'Blues' singers can only dream of, as well as a commanding prescence, and seems absolutley as at home dropping 21st Century South London references as he is dipping into the obscurities of blues history.

The Cedars describe themselves as a 'bluesy Americana throwback' and jolly good they are at it too. Fronted by the charismatic Chantal Hill on vocals and with the stylish slide of Jason Moffat on guitar, their tales of murder and jilted love are finely wrought and their 'unplugged' approach makes a welcome change. They're a hard working band too, and appear to have a good following. Catch 'em near you soon.

In a week where the very future of was in question following a particularly dense flurry of tedious abuse from people who just don't seem to get what we're about, this was a gig that re-invigorated our faith that yes, there is something worth celebrating this far along the history of 'blues' musical culture.

If you're reading this and thinking 'Acid House? Folk? That aint the blues!' then you need to think again. If you can connect with a room full of outstanding musicians playing music that's rooted in blues and yet which manages to have something to say about the world today, and which you can also dance to, then welcome to our world.