G. Love & Special Sauce are looking both forward and in the rearview mirror these days.
As the trio’s original lineup — Garrett “G. Love” Dutton, bassist Jim “Jimi Jazz” Prescott and drummer Jeffrey “Houseman” Clemens — has reunited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its self-titled debut, playing the album in its entirety on tour, the group also has a new release, “Sugar,” coming on April 22. And Dutton tells Billboard that the two events feel natural in tandem.
“I was talking to my road manager the other day, and we’re like, ‘Damn! Can you believe we’ve been doing this shit for so long?!’ ” Dutton says with a laugh. “It really just goes by in the blink of an eye. It’s been a crazy trip but it’s been a great trip, and it still feels as fresh as ever. It is a milestone, though, something that, as a band, I think we’re proud about. It’s an accomplishment. But we just keep moving forward. And honestly, every night you hit the stage you’re still like, ‘Is anybody gonna be there?’ Really. That hasn’t changed.”
Dutton says there was no great drama getting back together with Prescott and Clemens, with whom he’s touring for the first time in eight years.
“Over the years we’ve had some personnel changes for different reasons. Sometimes the road kind of wears on people and people need to step off. Sometimes tensions run high and you need to kind of take a little break from each other. There’s all kinds of things. But with the three of us…there’s just a chemistry you have with certain people. Jim, Jeff and I, we don’t really have too much in common as people, but when we get behind our instruments and get together, whether it’s in a room by ourselves or in a room full of people. There’s some magic that’s happening there. It’s really good to be feeling that again.”
The “Sugar” album, meanwhile, was recorded primarily at Brushfire Records’ studio in Los Angeles and finds the trio abetted by guests such as Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo, Marc Broussard and Merry Clayton of Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd and “Twenty Feet From Stardom” fame. And after collaborating with the Avett Brothers on his 2011 solo album “Fixin’ To Die,” Dutton says he wanted “to get back to what we’re known for, which is the hip-hop blues, mixing old school Delta blues and Chicago blues with the hip-hop influences of the late 80s and early 90s and really kinda getting down and dirty with that. That was kind of the style we were going for, musically.”
In the studio, Dutton says, the group and its guests kept things as live on the floor as possible.
“I’ve done very kind of different recording, and I think where we really excel as a unit and I excel as a performer and a vocalist is doing everything in a completely live setting and really going back to the original concept of the band, recording-wise. We want to recapture what those old Chess recordings and the old Stax recordings and all the old blues recordings were, which is the band sitting in a room together and vocals bleeding into the drums and the drums are in the vocals and the bass is everywhere — no isolation and completely live. There are some overdubs on the record, but I think more than 75 percent of the vocals are live performances, and all the music’s live. That’s something that I’m always ready to hang my hat on.”
G. Love & Special Sauce have North American dates booked into mid-May.