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G. Love & Special Sauce celebrate 30 years

by cashonbank.com
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G. Love was doing fine in Philly. He was doing better than fine. Busking in the city, Garrett “G. Love” Dutton remembers striking it rich as a teenager.

“I had this euphoric moment when I was playing on the streets of Philadelphia in June of 1992 when, in one night, I made $60, two beers, a joint and a cigarette,” Dutton told Herald with a laugh. “Also that night I started rapping the lyrics of Eric B. & Rakim’s ‘Paid in Full’ over this blues riff at the end of one of my songs. It was a pinnacle moment because I realized no one was playing Dobro and rapping.”

The blending of hip hop with the twang of the Dobro — a metal guitar favored by blues and country pioneers — gave the kid a charge. But despite the innovation and windfall night, Garrett packed up for Boston where it was easier to get a license to play on the streets (and you didn’t need to duck the police while trying to make a living).

In Boston, Dutton found drummer Jeffrey “The Houseman” Clemens and stand-up bassist James “Jimi Jazz” Prescott and things got cooking. The freshly formed G. Love & Special Sauce took over the Monday night residency at Cambridge’s Plough & Stars (handed to them from Morphine’s Mark Sandman) while commuting to Philly to record their self-titled debut — the group is celebrating 30 years of the debut with a national tour that stops at Boston’s City Winery Jan. 24 and 25.

“When I met the guys, I really started writing these songs for the band,” Dutton said. “Jeff was showing me a lot of Meters’ stuff and I was showing him all of my hip hop stuff.”

Grooves, vibes, riffs and ideas from Dutton’s favorite tracks from acts as different as alternative hip hop act the Pharcyde and blues icon Little Walter got smashed together. After a year of experimentation, the songs of “G. Love & Special Sauce” came together. .

“I was trying to do blues but with lyrics about Philadelphia and then later about Boston,” Dutton said. “I was an aspiring blues player but I was a hip hop kid.”

The trio hit at exactly the right time, a time when fresh sounds and weird genre mashups broke through — think the Roots, Sublime, Luscious Jackson, and, of course, Morphine. Their ode to chilled liquids of every kind, “Cold Beverages,” became a lowkey radio hit and its video got MTV spins. Follow up single “Baby’s Got Sauce” did even better. Suddenly, the Plough gig was packed in for a calendar chocked with tour dates.

“We did a couple years where it was 250 shows a year,” Dutton said. “Looking back, I don’t even see how that is possible.”

Both with and without Special Sauce, G. Love has spent three decades making follow-up records. Many of them have been great. A few of them have been as successful. But nothing really matches the raw energy of the debut.

After all this time, Dutton can still hear the magic in the grooves.

“It’s something that I’m really connected to even after 30 years,” he said. “I know why, but I still have this emotional connection to those songs.”

For tickets and details, visit citywinery.com/boston


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