Clutchy Hopkins & Shawn Lee – Clutch of the Tiger (2008)

Hi everyone and welcome to 2013! I took a bit of an extended vacation, trying to refresh my musical input and I have to say it hasn’t been as easy as it normally proves to be. I hit a roadblock when attempting to decide what the first post of the year should be, and so I kept turning things around in my head, poking and prodding at albums new and old, until I remembered a mysterious musician who brings a really fascinating story to the table – Clutchy Hopkins.

Clutchy HopkinsThe thing about Clutchy Hopkins is that no one seems to know who he or she is. The name is a mask and conspiracy theories abound around the identity of the person behind the mask and the very reasons for the mask itself. Several pictures of a flannel-clad, bearded, aging man exist, supposedly portraying the enigmatic musician, but the general consensus tends to lean towards the opinion that those pictures are nothing but a ruse, another clever deception in the web of intrigue.

Now, regardless of my overly-dramatic tone in presenting the issue of Clutchy Hopkins’ identity or lack thereof, the thing is, the music is wonderful – jazzy, supremely laid back, endowed with copious amounts of groove and “phat beatz”. Many of the songs on this album, and indeed on all of his albums, have the inescapable effect of reminding me of the sweet cliche of the seventies cop show – the messy but comfortable bachelor pad, equipped with mood lighting, shag rug, waterbed and a purple semi-hollow body guitar on the wall, the flamboyant clothing, the enormous, low riding, slow-cruising cars, the sun baked city and the shady characters confidently heading for the “watering hole”… Clutchy Hopkins paints a very vivid picture, with minimal means and artifice. The references are crystal clear and expertly incorporated, bringing the album to a very nice simmer somewhere between nostalgia trip and grounded, entirely contemporary wink to the past.

I came to hear Clutchy Hopkins for the first time due to a friend of mine’s obsession with his music and identity enigma, an obsession which fueled his creative spirit in such a way as to lead to the emergence of a volume of poetry coagulated out of and under this catalytic influence. I think that’s a pretty amazing way to be introduced to a musician and, regardless of what you think of poetry in general, whether it’s a “dead” art form or not, I think the fact that some music can foster such a complex effort as the writing a volume of poetry is testament to the creative quality and the exquisite dosage of silence in this music. I mention silence, because I feel its an essential component of Clutchy Hopkins’ style – what is said, what is consigned to sound is as important as that which isn’t, as that which is hinted at, implied, left hanging in the interstitial spaces between beats. Just like speech, the groove of this music gives it a very poignant, very structured narrative quality, and the breaks in speech, the pauses, often left to the ear of the listener to deduce, are what make the whole thing intelligible and turn it from noise into communication. I’m not saying anything new, it’s just I’m amazed at the way this album seems to illustrate the point to clearly, as opposed to a lot of instrumental music I’ve head throughout the years.

There isn’t much else I’d like to say about Clutchy Hopkins right now. Give this album a listen and see for yourselves the generosity with which it can inspire. I hope you enjoy this downtempo offering and I’ll see you soon!

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