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CD Review: Clutch 

Strange Cousins From the West (Weathermaker)

Germantown, Maryland's Clutch began its extended road trip/rock ensemble in 1991. Nine albums and 18 years later, they're still in the fray. Strange Cousins From the West continues the trend of the last few records — similar songs with new arrangements and subtle variations. Neil Fallon's soulful bellows match Tim Sult's guitar hammer-on-and-off gymnastics, bobbing melody along just around the surface. Fallon's vocals are as confident and gospel-like as ever, but Sult's fret play and tasteful solos steals the show. Meanwhile, Dan Maines' swaggering bass lines and Jean-Paul Gaster's carpenter's-pocket drumming provide a rock-solid anchor.

Don't let the seeming simplicity of the grooves fool you — there are plenty of time-signature inversions and syncopated beats, performed with skill and confidence that borders on nonchalance. "Motherless Child" and "Minotaur" both normalize offbeat timing, much like the titular track of The Elephant Riders, the band's brief flirtation with Columbia Records. The heavy anthem style of 2007's From Beale Street to Oblivion re-asserts itself on "50,000 Unstoppable Watts," "Let a Poor Man Be" and a cover of Pappo's Blues' "Algo Ha Cambiado." The somber, snare-march eulogy of "Abraham Lincoln" and the Pink Panther-smooth "The Amazing Kreskin" stand out among the album's tracks. Strange Cousins From the West is enjoyable but not particularly striking. It's a groove thing — just roll with it.

Nick DeMarino

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