September 2007

Clutch - From Beale Street to Oblivion
DRT Entertainment DRT449
Format: CD
Released: 2007

by Shannon Holliday

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ****
Overall Enjoyment ****

From Beale Street to Oblivion is the eighth studio release from Maryland rock band Clutch. Heavy guitar riffs, gruff vocals and bestial drums set the pace, backed by Hammond B-3, harmonica, and solid bass playing. Lead singer Neil Fallon has an unmistakable voice, delivering lyrics sometimes scathing, sometimes humorous, but always packing a punch. Not quite metal, not solely rock, the Clutch sound is reminiscent of Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath, but distinctly their own. Roots run deep on this album, from DC go-go to Piedmont blues and everywhere in between.

The albums' title comes from the track "The Devil and Me," which pays homage to Memphis ("Going back to Tennessee, back where I come from; Going back to Beale St. and oblivion"). It's a well-suited shout-out, considering this album is more blues-fueled than previous Clutch discs. "White's Ferry" is reminiscent of a William Blake poem put to music, wavering between slow, eminent doom and full-throttle hell bound with ticket in hand, while "Electric Worry" marries Muddy Waters-style country blues with heavy rock'n'roll. Guest harmonica player Eric Oblander wails alongside Tim Sult's grungy guitar, and the result is a head-banging hip-shaker.

In nearly two decades of releases, Clutch has run the gamut, experimenting with labels both large and small. Beale Street is their third release with DRT, a mid-size outfit the band claims "understands what we're all about." Produced, recorded and mixed by Joe Barresi (who has worked with Tool, Queens of the Stone Age, and The Melvins), the sounds are crisp and clean, with no digital fluff to mess with the mix. Clutch is sometimes called "the greatest band you've never heard,"but  this disc is sure to change all of that.