Gig preview: Alabama 3 at Kings Hall, Ilkley

Alabama 3
Alabama 3
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Alabama 3 co-founder Larry Love is refreshingly honest about the reason for the lack of fanfare surrounding the release of his band’s 12th album at the tail end of 2014.

“Basically we were a bit late delivering the record, consequently we were pretending it was a ‘soft’ release to cover up our chaos,” the silver-haired Welshman – real name Rob Spragg – explains goodnaturedly about The Women From W.O.M.B.L.E., which quietly slipped out in December.

The album itself is a companion piece to their 2013 release The Men From W.O.M.B.L.E., on which the band – best known for their blues-meets-acid-house hit Woke Up This Morning – collaborated with grass roots male youth.

“It was an attempt on my part and Alabama 3’s part to tap into what we believe is quite funky revolutionary activity from women in the community,” says Love. “It’s an interesting time. Online misogyny, whatever you want to call it, has been countered by sisters rising up. We’re pretending we’re feminists for a couple of months.”

He’s “very aware of the irony of being in a rock band trying to be right-on and non-sexist” but witnessing women in the community “stirring things up”, he wanted to “encourage some debate” about 21st century feminism.

The album includes snippets of dialogue and samples from powerful female voices, including the jazz singer Billie Holiday and the writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou.

“I’ve got a daughter myself,” says Love, “I wanted her to hear Billie Holiday’s voice and Maya Angelou’s voice. Hopefully it inspires the girls in our community.

“Now it’s not just about Led Zeppelin, Oasis and Arctic Monkeys; women are out their doing stuff.”

The album and corresponding tour puts the vocals of band member Aurora Dawn centre stage. “She’s a scary gangster, man!” Love jokes. “Not only has she got one of the most beautiful voices, she’s also a fierce, independent, strong black woman.”

Such is Aurora Dawn’s strength of character, the eight men in Alabama 3 are “very much letting her run things”.

“The last tour brought her to the front in terms of changing songs I would normally sing, just for an experiment,” says Love. “It worked really well.

“She’s a young Jamaican woman from Brixton, she stirs s*** up and can deal with it. She’s beautiful as well. It’s the best of both worlds.”

The band may be ringing a few changes but fans attending their forthcoming UK concerts can rest assured Woke Up This Morning, famed as the theme song for the long-running US TV series The Sopranos, will remain in their set.

“We’re very lucky – a lot of bands don’t even have one song [that they’re known for],” says Love. “It was originally written about a woman called Sara Thornton who changed the law on domestic violence. [In 1989 she was convicted of murdering her abusive husband, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.] Then it was co-opted into a gangster anthem. It’s been used on The Simpsons, Nas sampled it on a hip-hop track. We’re privileged to have that exposure.

“It started in a different format to what it ended up in in The Sopranos. We’re very blessed. We’re never cursing having to sing Woke Up This Morning.”

The band’s sole West Yorkshire date on this tour will be at the Kings Hall in Ilkley. Love is is entertained by the idea of performing at a venue normally reserved for more sedate acts. “It’s a tea and cakes sort of thing, right?” he says. “It sounds brilliant. We love the incongruity of strange places.”

Alabama 3 play at the Kings Hall, Ilkley on March 19. For tickets visit https://www.musicglue.com/alabama-3/