Music News & Reviews

G. Love and Special Sauce mix it up at Thunder Valley

G. Love, whose real name is Garrett Dutton, now describes his band’s bluesy music as having morphed to rock ’n’ roll.
G. Love, whose real name is Garrett Dutton, now describes his band’s bluesy music as having morphed to rock ’n’ roll. Mason Jar Media

The 1994 self-titled debut album from G. Love & Special Sauce was unusual enough that it earned the group’s music a label – hip-hop blues – that has stuck ever since. But Love hears his new album, “Love Saves the Day” and has a different, simpler term to describe the new music: rock ’n’ roll.

“We just keep pushing that sound, and now it’s become more rocking than ever,” Love said in a mid-January phone interview. “So I really do feel this is rock ’n’ roll. And it has elements of hip-hop, but it’s rock ’n’ roll.”

Love said he has gone through a process over his past three albums that’s similar to how classic groups such as Led Zeppelin, Cream and the Rolling Stones found their sounds. They immersed themselves in Delta blues, drew on their influences from outside the blues genre and created their unique styles of blues-based rock ’n’ roll.

Now Love has followed a similar arc, beginning with his 2011 album, “Fixin’ To Die,” on which he reconnected with his roots.

“I really think it was coming home to the blues,” Love said. “If you look back at the records before ‘Fixin’ To Die,’ we were kind of in a little more poppy (place), not in a bad way, but a little more poppy, focusing more on hip-hop and kind of infectious, hook-driven songs. And we had some success doing that.

“And then it was like let’s flip it up. So I went back on ‘Fixin’ To Die,’ and delved into back into the blues of Bukka White, Lightin’ Hopkins and even to the rootsy Americana of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan, kind of my roots as to who I was as a young folk-blues singer in high school. That really reconnected me to the blues.”

The next step in that journey was the 2014 album “Sugar.” This time, Love reunited with his Special Sauce bandmates, drummer Jeffrey “Houseman” Clemens and bassist Jim “Jimi Jazz” Prescott (who had last played together eight years earlier, before Love went on to work with different musicians). The trio plugged in and rocked out on songs that were similar in spirit to the debut album, only louder, faster and harder hitting.

“With ‘Sugar,’ we stumbled upon like the obvious blueprint for what was the hip-hop blues, or what is the hip-hop blues, and that was with the song ‘Come Up Man,’ ” Love said. “That record was all based around one song, ‘Come Up Man.’ And the ‘Come Up Man’ (song) was basically a Cypress Hill-style beat, with Elmore James-style slide guitar on top of it. And then that was kind of like ‘OK, that’s the sound.’ 

Love sees “Love Saves the Day” as a logical extension of the “Sugar” album, pushing the rock and blues sides of G. Love & Special Sauce even further to create the heaviest, hardest-rocking – and quite possibly, the best – of the 11 albums Love has made with (or outside of) Special Sauce.

Of course, Love (real name Garrett Dutton) was no stranger to the blues or any number of other musical styles by the time he made “Fixin’ To Die.”

The Philadelphia native has been mixing and matching blues, hip-hop, rock and soul in varied combinations for 20 years, building an audience large enough to consistently headline theaters and large clubs.

Love said he hadn’t planned to follow up “Sugar” so quickly with “Love Saves the Day.” But his label, Brushfire Records, was ready for a new album to be made early last year.

Despite having a short window to write and record the album, Love and Special Sauce not only made a strong album, but they were able to recruit several guest musicians who added extra spice to the proceedings.

David Hidalgo of Los Lobos joins in on three songs, adding some searing guitar to the title track, “Dis Song” and “That Girl,” three raucous tunes that open the album. Ozomatli brings some urban soul and funk to the horn-spiced “Let’s Have a Good Time.” That group’s horn players, Asdru Sierra (trumpet) and Ulysses Baya (sax), also join Citizen Cope on “Muse,” a folkier tune that still rocks nicely. Lucinda Williams, meanwhile, duets with G. Love on rockabilly-tinged “New York City.”

Love is proud enough of “Love Saves the Day” that he and Special Sauce plan to play the entire new album as each show’s first set on the band’s winter tour. The second set feature songs from across Love’s album catalog, with a set list built largely around requests received online from fans.

“That way we can really come out and make a statement, because we’re excited about the new record, and we want to get people hooked on it,” he said. “And then, yeah, obviously the fans come first, and we want to play the songs they want to hear as well … in the second set.”

G Love and Special Sauce

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6

Where: Thunder Valley Casino Resort, 1200 Athens Ave., Lincoln

Cost: $19.74-$29.75

Information: 877-468-8777, www.thundervalleyresort.com

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