Neil Fallon's beardo connections to Jerry Garcia and ZZ Top run deeper than just sharing a contempt for shaving. Immortalized in the Headbanger's Ball classic, "Burning Beard," the singer and guitarist's facial hair makes his band Clutch a logical successor to the beard-rock throne. Like Garcia and the Dead, Clutch is a road dog who's developed a rabid live following through onstage jamming, perpetual touring, and a pro-tape-trading policy. But unlike the Dead, Clutch doesn't put sober audiences to sleep.
Unlike ZZ Top, Clutch easily reproduces the grit and soul of the blues, a music Billy Gibbons and company have only diluted over the years. Clutch, in fact, gets even bluesier on its latest album, From Beale Street to Oblivion. Recorded analog-style, Fallon and guitarist Tim Sult brandish an impressive cache of wicked riffs and, in the process, have created an early candidate for hard-rock album of the year.
But the biggest advantage Clutch has over both bands is Fallon's lyrics, and Beale Street features some of his best. Whether he's ridiculing hypocritical self-righteousness in "When Vegans Attack" or the arrogance of the rich in "Power Player," the man is ridiculously on point.