It’s been said that Clutch has evolved into a blues band. Last year’s From Beale Street to Oblivion may have slide guitar, harmonica and organ (a fixture for three albums), but the Maryland quintet has certainly not gone blues.
I hear deeper, fatter grooves. Groove, often flirting with funk, has been the constant thread throughout Clutch’s 18-year-plus career, and here they are thick. Beale Street finds the band energized. Perhaps it was the write-on-the-road, lay-’em-down-live in the studio approach that gives the record such warmth and force. Maybe it’s that they recorded directly to tape and skipped any digitalia up front. Whatever the reason, this is an earthy recording that gives listeners the impression of lounging in the room with the band; human effects often compressed out of the mix, like breaths and string muting, are thankfully left in.
Lead vocalist Neil Fallon employs his signature stream-of-consciousness rants, but now he sings rather than bellows, a welcome improvement from his past delivery. Few can top choice lines like, “When vegans attack, on 10-speed bikes, tattoos with meaning, American Spirit lights” from “When Vegans Attack.”
From Beale Street to Oblivion is essential for Clutch fans. And rest assured, it ain’t a blues album. (Chris LaTray)
Clutch plays the Wilma Theatre Thursday, March 6, at 7:30 PM. Murder by Death and others open. $25/$23 in advance.