There's a certain earnestness about Clam Chowder that you might expect from a group whose roots are in the Markland Confederation of Medieval Mercenary Militias. That's where John Huff and Don Stallone first came together, and as the group has grown -- to five members now -- it hasn't abandoned its good-natured accessibility.
Appropriately, Clam Chowder's self- produced album, "Stewed," has many flavors. The dominant genres are sea chanteys ("Bully in the Alley," "Away Rio," "General Taylor," "Roll the Woodpile Down" and "Leave Her, Johnny, Leave Her") and English folk songs in the Steeleye Span tradition ("The Bold Poachers" and a harp-led reading of Poul Anderson's poem "The Queen of Air and Darkness").
Clam Chowder uses a lot of rich five-part harmony, which overcomes the lack of any single distinctive voice. At times, the voices are a bit too polite in the chanteys, which, excepting the robust "Leave Her," slip into a madrigal mold.
The barebones backing instruments are a bit simplistic, not far removed from a collegiate hootenanny, and the recorded sound is unnervingly thin. This is semi-pro folk.
Still, the spirits are high. Among the stronger cuts: "Sweet Hope of Glory," an austere Puritan-era hymn; a Tom Lehrer- style parody called "The Harried Leisure Class"; and two exemplary Eric Bogle songs, "Wee Dark Engine Room" and "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda." ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM CLAM CHOWDER -- Stewed (Clam Chowder, 3803 32nd Street, Mount Rainier, Maryland 20822). THE SHOW CLAM CHOWDER, Friday (and April 15) at 8:15 at the Greenbelt Cultural Arts Center.