With the release of their highly anticipated 12th studio album, the gloriously titled “Book of Bad
Decisions”, it would be easy to suggest that legendary Maryland rockers Clutch have made their
finest record to date. This may even be true. You see, the thing about Clutch is that ever since
their 1993 debut Transnational Speedway League they've been in the business of writing stone
cold classics, and even the most rabid fan would have trouble picking just one. “Book of Bad
Decisions” won't make that task any easier. Rest assured, it's another classic.
Recorded over three weeks at Sputnik Studios in Nashville, “Book of Bad Decisions” was
produced by four-time Grammy winner Vance Powell (Seasick Steve, The White Stripes, Arctic
Monkeys, etc.), a man who apparently knows that a one degree angle change in microphones
makes a difference to how an instrument sounds. Interestingly, his name first came to the
band's attention via country star Chris Stapleton.
“It started with my brother-in-law, who's a huge Chris Stapleton fan,” says drummer Jean-Paul
Gaster. “He and I would listen to The Traveller quite a bit, and one thing that stood out was that
it didn't sound like any other country record that I'd heard. Shortly after that I was on Spotify,
and a song by The Dead Weather came up. It just blew me away and I could tell that whoever
produced that record was doing things a different way. I looked it up and there was Vance
Powell's name again, so something was telling us that this is a guy we should reach out to.”
“Even though Chris Stapleton does music that's not too much like our own, the sonics of the
record are pretty great,” says frontman Neil Fallon. “He has a very different approach to
recording; he comes from the school of live recording and engineering, and the songs, on tape,
are not gonna sound that much different from what we do live.”
No stranger to the road, Powell spent three days on tour with the band in order to get a feel for
what they do best, watching first from the front of house and then from the stage, checking out
the live sound and how Clutch connect with their audience.
“I never go into a record having an idea of how it's gonna sound,” he says. “But after hearing
them live, I had an idea of how they could sound. I'm a big live recording fan, so I like when
bands play together and I didn't wanna get into that manufacturing a record concept. I wanted
it to be real organic.”
Indeed, 'organic' is a word that comes up a lot when talking to Clutch about the new record,
Powell taking great care to get guitar tones right and making sure that each song had its own
identity.
“Vance is all about vintage guitar sounds,” says guitarist Tim Sult. “I probably had more
amplifier options than on any other album we've done. It was like going back to a music store in
1960! This was the first time I've ever recorded with amps from the '50s and I ended up buying
a couple of '50s amps while we were in Nashville.”
“I felt really good about the gear that I was bringing into the studio,” concurs bassist Dan
Maines, “but Vance had this 1974 Ampeg and I'm so glad that he recommended that. As soon
as we plugged it in, it sounded like Sabbath! We ended up using it alongside one of my amps,
and I loved it so much that once we were done recording I scoured the ads for another one.
What I really like is that each song has a different tone to it, and I think that's Vance Powell's
style.”
With each band member contributing riffs to the album – including Jean-Paul who has added
mandolin to his repertoire – there was no shortage of material, each song road-tested long
before it reached the studio. Hell, with 15 songs, “Book of Bad Decisions” could easily pass as a
double album! Always wary of repeating themselves and retreading old ground, there is even –
for the first time on a Clutch album – a horn section that swings like James Brown's pants!
“The third night I was watching the band,” says Vance, “they did this song that at that time was
called Talkbox, which is now In Walks Barbarella. While Neil was singing, I was thinking to
myself, “wow, there's a horn line here!” And while he was singing, I was humming it to myself. I
brought it up to them, tenuously, and they were like, “okay, let's do it!” This is as Parliament,
Funkadelic as it gets, maybe even a James Brown vibe!”
One thing, however, that is entirely as expected, is that as arguably the greatest rock lyricist of
modern times, Fallon, as always, has provided some interesting subject matter, everything from
poets to presidents and recipes to rock 'n' roll. You may have to Google some of it, because
Fallon is nothing if not a clever bugger, and likes to keep his audience on their toes.
“Most of the time I have no idea what he's talking about,” laughs Jean-Paul, “but the lyrics
completely inform how I'm going to play that tune. Whether or not I understand exactly what
Neil is singing about is not important. I listen to the way Neil sings those words and I think
about what those words mean to me, and that, ultimately, informs how I'm gonna play drums
on that song.”
“I think I probably second guess myself into doing that,” says Neil of his lyrical style. “I would
rather not be able to answer all the questions, just to keep it interesting for myself. Sometimes
a rhyme sounds awesome and I don't know what it means, but I'll go with it anyway. It's
become more difficult to write lyrics now that I have Wikipedia at my fingertips, because you
can go down rabbit hole after rabbit hole and not get anything done! Not too long ago you'd
have to spend months in a public library trying to find out the things you can find in a couple of
keystrokes.”
Elsewhere, however, you'll find a more straightforward approach to lyrics, A Good Fire relating
the memory of hearing Black Sabbath for the first time – something that everyone can relate to
– while Sonic Counselor pays homage to Clutch fans. Indeed, it's fair to say that Clutch fans –
collectively known as Gearheads – are a breed like no other.
“I've always loved rock songs that just celebrated rock 'n' roll,” grins Fallon, “but that song was
a bit more about the people who come to our shows, that make it as exciting for us as hopefully
it is for them. My favorite shows that I've seen bands do is like going to church, especially when
everybody's in sync with each other and you walk out with your jaw on the floor. I feel
incredibly grateful that people have walked out of our shows and felt the same way. It's a tip of
the hat to them.”
“We're exceptionally lucky to have the fans we have,” Jean-Paul agrees. “They're diehard, and because
of that, we take this that much more seriously. We do not take this for granted. We know that those
folks could be anywhere else, and they've chosen to spend the evening at a Clutch show, so we're gonna
do the best we can to provide them with the best musical experience we can. I think that translates to
the records, because at the end of the day, all you have is your records. When this whole thing wraps
up, those are gonna be the things that go down in history.”
Clutch are:
Neil Fallon – vocals & guitar
Jean-Paul Gaster – drums
Dan Maines – bass
Tim Sult – guitar

Despite it's unconventional creation, the new record, Cold Day Memory is a cohesive return to form that restores everything Sevendust pioneered and excelled at in the late '90s with the writing and playing chops the members have developed since then. In summary, this record is inventive, immediate and infectious.

"We wanted to change the template completely from what we did with our last album Hope and Sorrow, Rose explains. "We were going, 'Let's bring back those other elements Clint brought in that made us what we were. So we sort of made a silent agreement that we were going to let Clint run wild. We said we'll jump in when it's time, but if you've got an idea let's go with it."

With Lowery as a major contributor, Sevendust released four albums that stretched the limits of hard rock and metal, combining elements of thrash, classic metal, southern rock and soul into songs that were both sinfully tuneful and ruthlessly aggressive. Then in 2003, after the release of Seasons, the guitarist quit to focus on his other band Dark New Day. Sevendust continued for three more albums, and enjoyed considerable success, but something was clearly missing. So, when the band reunited with Lowery in early 2008, it was like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle was finally reinserted and the picture was again complete.

"I just wanted us to do what we do best," Lowery says. "We have a lot of melody that's a cool contrast to the heavy music that we play. So, you'll have a melodic chorus that comes out of nowhere, but we still have aggressive vocals there. And I did a lot with the harmonies, but I also did a lot of the heavy vocal stuff as well. So it was a challenge for me to really dig in and find a voice that was aggressive enough to where it sounded sincere enough to put on the record. We're a very heavy, but melodic band and I wanted to maintain that."

Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown

Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown is a rock and roll band born of Nashville, TN. Their sound is a soulful patchwork of roots-infused melodies and muscular riffs, all woven tightly with the thread of their alternative psychedelic mystique. It's as rambunctious, raw and real as rock & roll gets these days.

A native of Honey Grove, TX, Tyler cut his teeth on greats such as Lightnin' Hopkins & Freddie King. Bryant studied the blues under Roosevelt Twitty Sr. and believes that the soul in roots music is what puts the "roll" in rock & roll.

At seventeen, Tyler moved to Nashville to write songs and start a band. There he met drummer Caleb Crosby and they became fast friends. "The instant we started playing," Caleb says, "I knew we were going to start a band. We played our first show a week later and haven't stopped since." Together they formed what would become the Shakedown.

Graham Whitford, a rocker kid from Boston, was introduced to Tyler as the guy who could put him out of a job. As soon as Tyler heard Graham play, he asked him to join the band and move to Nashville right away.

Noah Denney was the final addition to the Shakedown. "His bass sound scared me and he added an edge and attitude to the band that we didn't even know we needed," says Bryant.

Tyler toured as a solo artist for a spell, playing Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festival in Chicago, receiving the Robert Johnson Foundation's New Generation Award, and sharing the stage with acts such as B.B. King & Johnny Winter.

"Playing on my own was cool, but I really wanted a group of friends I could hang and make music with," says Bryant. "The more time I spent with the guys in the Shakedown, the more they started to feel like my brothers. Now I can't imagine making music with anyone else."

In 2013 the band released "Wild Child," their first full-length album, which was featured in Rolling Stone, NYLON Magazine, Paste Magazine, Interview, and many more. The band made its television debut on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE in support of the record that helped gain them a cult like following.

Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown recently inked a deal with John Varvatos/Republic Records and got right into the studio with celebrated producer/engineer, Vance Powell (Jack White, Seasick Steve).

The bands new EP, The Wayside, will be released on November 13th. The first single, "Loaded Dice & Buried Money" is a raw, unhinged reminder that some things aren't always what we perceive them to be.

"When you give everything you've got to something, you hope it won't let you fall by the wayside," explains Bryant. "This album was inspired by times where the feeling of having nothing felt overwhelming. In those moments, music offered us an escape. It gave us something that had nothing to do with money or dissolving relationships, and everything to do with freedom and expression."

The Shakedown has earned their stripes by touring the country and winning fans one at a time. Whether playing a dingy rock & roll club, touring the country with Jeff Beck & ZZ Top, or opening for Aerosmith, this is a band that is proud to be loud and dedicated to leaving it all on whatever stage they set foot on.

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