10 Years Ago: Clutch Explores the Blues With ‘From Beale Street to Oblivion’
For their eighth studio album, 2007's From Beale Street to Oblivion, Clutch found new inspiration from a source that had previously fed many of their rock heroes: the blues.
“I think as years go on everyone in the band listens to blues more and more," singer Neil Fallon told the Freeborn Times around the time of the album's release. "Not because we’re sad and upset, but because our musical tastes are expanding and maturing. Also, those old bands we love like Led Zeppelin and ZZ Top are really, really closely related to the blues, they made the riff really big, with a swing. A light bulb just went off in our heads one day and we realized that that was the kind of direction we were beginning to take, so we started really exploring it."
Beale Street was the second album to feature organist Mick Schauer and the band's five-man lineup. Unlike the more Deep Purple-inspired, slightly progressive leanings of much of 2005's Robot Hive / Exodus, the new record looked several generations further into the past. For example, the single "Electric Worry" was a partial cover of a Mississippi Fred McDowell song, complete with "Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!" John Lee Hooker shout-outs and a harmonica solo.
"We played our first show in '91, and I would say that our style now is more blues-oriented and less hardcore," guitarist Tim Sult explained to Ultimate Guitar. "When I started out, I didn't really play solos and I kind of played noisy-type parts. Now I play actual solos along with the noisy-type parts," he joked.
Lyrically, Fallon remained as wonderfully witty, observant and off-kilter as ever. Here's how he explained the inspiration for the rousing, swampy "Black Umbrella," which apparently struck him while visiting a venue outside St. Louis. “In Sauget, Illinois there is a club called Pop’s. It’s on a lawless piece of land with 24 hour strip bars and an O.T.B. I once went into the O.T.B. facility and saw the strangest collection of people one could imagine. It was Mos Eisley spaceport. A woman dressed like she had come straight from a jazz funeral walked in and no one seemed to notice her but myself. I guess anomaly is typical in Sauget."
Two years after the release of Beale Street, Clutch returned to their traditional four-piece lineup for 2009's more direct and less polished Strange Cousins From the West. Their most recent releases, 2013's Earth Rocker and 2015's Psychic Warfare, have leaned more towards the sound of their more aggressive, riff-based early days, but with a heightened level of sophistication.
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