Apr 252014

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

While too few outside of the metal community are familiar with Clutch, they are not struggling to make an impact. With live shows that are the stuff of legends, Clutch has been reliably rocking audiences for the past two decades. Rock, blues, funk, punk – it all fuses together, making for a band that is loved and vehemently defended as “more than just metal.”

Starting in Maryland in the early ’90s, their original template was hardcore. But there was a lot more exploration and wit here than most would expect in a hardcore band. The one hardcore song that they regularly covered (of which there are only low-quality copies) was Bad Brain’s “I,” far from your typical hardcore fare. As time progressed, they continued to add more elements to their sound. Howlin’ Wolf was just as much of an influence as DC’s local go-go scene.

Known for their live shows, Clutch comes with a new set list every night (and a back catalog of enough songs to last them a long while if they don’t want to repeat). As a result, covers aren’t a regular part of their repertoire. But it’s fun to see what cover songs they have tackled; it gives good insight into exactly how their sound has formed and provides a lot of good material to the “more than just metal” argument.

Clutch – Politician (Cream cover)

A great show of wah-wah guitar and gruff voiced singing, with sinister lyrics that fall right in line with typical Clutch concerns. Maybe too easy of a cover for them, but pretty great.

Clutch – Equinox (John Coltrane cover)

They might play metal, but they have the chops to run off in a totally different direction. They find the groove and make what was originally a little bit smoky into full-fledged arson.

Clutch & Five Horse Johnson – Red Hot Mama (Funkadelic cover)

Go back to the original version of this song and suddenly it doesn’t seem at all odd that Clutch chose to cover it. Funky, definitely. But the heaviness that was flirted with in the original version now stands front and center.

Clutch – Money (Pink Floyd cover)

The cover’s not a drastic departure from the original, but it brings a lot of attitude in the delivery and plenty of fancy guitar work. None of which would work so well without a solid rhythm section, which does its duty here.

Clutch – Gravel Road (Mississippi Fred McDowell cover)

Real bluesy. They’ve also taken McDowell’s song “Fred’s Worried Life Blues” and turned it into “Electric Worry” – seems they’re kindred spirits, especially in the ways a guitar can kick your ass.

Clutch – Cross-Eyed Mary (Jethro Tull cover)

Much like the Cream cover, if you’ve turned up something with weird lyrics and a heavy feel, then you’ve turned up a pretty easy fit for the band. No need for a flute when a guitar solo will take its place just fine.

Bonus: Mountain – Immortal (Clutch/Leslie West Cover)

Well, this is fun. There’s a song called “Baby I’m Down” on (Mountain singer/guitarist) Leslie West’s first solo album. About 30 years later Clutch took that song, messed with the lyrics (made it about some sort of demigod as opposed to being sad) and called it “Immortal.” A couple years later, Leslie West decided to cover “Immortal” on a new Mountain album. And the song sounds pretty great with West’s full-throated roar.​

Clutch can be found on iTunes, Amazon, and pro-rock.com.

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