PREVIEW To survive two decades in the music business, a band must learn to tolerate change. Clutch has prospered by embracing it. Since its beginnings as a shotgun marriage between East Coast hardcore and Southern rock, the Maryland four-piece has constantly retooled its elastic, blues-metal sound. Easily bored and eager to explore their prolific, improvisatory talents, the band members never perform the same set twice they take turns surprising each other.
This year's Strange Cousins From the West (Weathermaker Music) abandons the harmonica and keyboard accents that proliferated on 2007's From Beale Street to Oblivion (DRT Records). Though the band has been on a bluesy, mellow trajectory since 2004's Blast Tyrant (DRT), the pendulum is now swinging in the other direction, back toward the muscular guitar rock that comprised its definitive mid-1990s output.
The stand-out track "Abraham Lincoln" sounds appropriately like a funeral march, and the lyrics showcase singer Neil Fallon's talent for making American history into motor-mouthed rock and roll genius. The album's lead single "50,000 Unstoppable Watts" boasts a trademark non sequitur sing-along ("Anthrax/ham radio/and liquor"), underpinned by one of Tim Sult's inimitable guitar leads. Neither shredding nor chugging, the licks glide along with the assured, unpredictable grace of a hopscotch expert.
On tour, Clutch is supported by Lionize, Sult's reggae side project bored, prolific, remember? along with Baroness, a group that rivals the headlining godfathers in combining distorted guitars with Southern flavor and a vast range of influences. Extemporaneous and explosive in concert, Clutch is only skipped by the unwise.
CLUTCH With Lionize, Baroness. Wed/22, 8 p.m., $23. Regency Ballroom, 1290 Sutter, SF.
(415) 673-5716. www.theregencyballroom.com