Longtime Philadelphia band gets back to its roots
Philadelphia’s G. Love and Special Sauce will be doing two consecutive nights at the Boulder Theater, Friday, April 11 and Saturday, April 12. But Sugar, the new studio album dropping April 22 that Love is in town promoting is not at all the album he was ready to release when he returned from a recording session in Seattle last year.
Prior to that recording session, Love (real name Garrett Dutton) had done what has become standard procedure for his albums. He brought in a stack of new songs to Emmett Malloy, president of his label, Brushfire Records, Josh Nicotra, general manager of Brushfire and his personal manager, Jason Brown. Then this “committee” reviews the songs, offers its critiques and eventually chooses a group of tunes that are likely to make the album.
“Every one of the tunes is like my song, so it’s a little hard to hear [them say] ‘This verse needs to be re-written’ or ‘This groove is nothing,’” Love said of the process during a recent phone interview. “It’s pretty hardcore. So a lot of shit gets left on the cutting room floor. But I’ve made myself comfortable with the process.”
But for Sugar, the process became less comfortable than usual for Love when he returned from Seattle.
“After the Seattle session, I was like ‘Wow, we really did it. We really got it this time,’” Love said. “And we played it for the label, and [Brown] and they all just felt like it was falling short. I was really pissed off, man.
“I went in and did [the album] and, like, excelled at it and killed it,” he said. “And now you say you don’t like it? What the fuck?’”
That wasn’t the end of the confusion for Love. His committee further said they liked only one song from the Seattle session, “Come Up Man.”
Ironically, that song had been rejected in the initial review. Love recorded it anyway, feeling the song brought a different direction to his funky blend of blues, hip-hop, folk and rock.
Stung by the reaction to his new recordings, Love decided he’d give Malloy, Noctra and Brown what they now wanted — an entire album built off of “Come Up Man.”
“I went back and picked out all of the tunes that I had that fit in with that [song],” Love related. “That’s how we got this record.”
Actually, Love got something more with Sugar: a CD that took him back to his 1994 debut album, G. Love and Special Sauce.
For the second recording session at Brushfire’s solar-powered studio in Los Angeles, Love brought back Jimi “Jazz” Prescott, the original bassist in Special Sauce, to play with the other original member of the group, Jeffrey “Houseman” Clemens. Prescott had recorded with Love in Seattle, but the second recording session marked the first time in eight years that Prescott had worked with Love and Clemens.
It wasn’t just the musicians that connected back to the G. Love and Special Sauce album. Like the debut, Sugar was also recorded mainly live in the studio by the three musicians. What’s more, Love feels Sugar draws from the same blues and hip-hop influences that shaped the sound on that 1994 debut album.
Sugar, though, is not a re-run of the first album. Where the debut was laid back, with Love frequently rapping his lyrics over songs that mostly featured acoustic instrumentation, Sugar is decidedly harder-edged.
“Come Up Man,” the album’s opening track sets the tone, with Love unleashing some electric slide guitar around the greasy hard-hitting groove generated by Prescott and Clemens. Songs that follow, such as “Nite Life” (which sounds like it could have been on a classic album by War), “Good Life” (with Love letting loose on harmonica), “Nothing Else Quite Like Home” (which might remind some of Ben Harper)” and the sharp and sassy title song also fit the rocking blues/hip-hop mold.
Now the reunion of the original G. Love and Special Sauce is getting extended to a live setting, as the trio sets out on a tour that runs into mid-April. The group is using the outing to not only preview songs from Sugar, but to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the selftitled debut album.
The first set of each show will feature the group playing G. Love and Special Sauce in its entirety, followed by a second set with material from across the other 10 albums (including Sugar) Love has released since the first CD.
“It should be fun,” Love said. “The first set is going to be a real disciplined set for us, like a real presentation of the exact thing. And then also, we’re going to really play the record as it goes. A lot of times we play songs night in and night out where we jam out on them. This time we’re really going to stick to the [album] arrangements and keep things tight and right and do it like that. It will be a cool chance to be real disciplined with the first set and then come out on the second set and really bust loose on the new stuff.”