STORY WRITTEN BY FERN BRODKIN
For 21st Century Media
Philly native Garrett Dutton (aka G. Love) and the original Special Sauce band members will start out 2015 with a bang as they embark on a 3-month tour that will take them across the U.S. and to Australia. The first stop is the Sands Bethlehem Event Center on Jan. 2.
2014 saw the release of “Sugar” (Brushfire), G. Love’s 14th recording. It was also the 20th anniversary of the release of the band’s eponymous debut album (Sony, 1994) that put them on the map.
Last year’s recording session reunited vocalist/guitarist/harmonica player G. Love with his original Special Sauce band mates — upright bassist Jim Prescott (aka Jimi Jazz) and drummer Jeffrey Clemens (aka Houseman) — for the first time in 6 years. In a phone interview from his home in Boston, G. Love described “Sugar.”
“It’s a real back-to-basics record — back to the basics of what G. Love & Special Sauce is all about, which is the hip-hop/blues. This (is) the 20th year since our first release and I feel like it really came full circle. We really fell back into the roots of the blues, the roots of hip-hop, and also the roots of what we were as a unit.
“We recorded it all live sitting in a room together in about a 5-day period. It was the first time we had played with Jimi Jazz in a number of years and he really came in energized and full of passion and fire. From the very first (that) we started recording it (felt) like ‘man, we really hit it.’ We could feel the magic in the air and it was really exciting to be making the record.”
After the album was released last April, the band toured extensively in the U.S. and abroad. They consistently perform about 150 shows a year.
“Our last tour was an interesting tour,” said G. Love. “We played the whole first record because it was the 20th anniversary. This tour is gonna see us get back into a more free-form set, leaning heavily on the new record ‘Sugar’ and then also a lot of hits from all of our records and we’re gonna delve into some of the deeper tracks on some of the records.”
He adds: “(This) will be a tour where we start to write again and start thinking about the next recording project. No doubt we’ll be road testing some of the newer songs we’ve been writing that we are excited about. So it should be a really good tour for us.”
G. Love reflected on how things are different from when the band first started out.
“When we first came out in ’94 we were really touring internationally much heavier and doing full U.S. tours… and it just got to a place where if you look at every year like a cycle, you’re gonna go around the world and it’s just too much… And as the years went on… we started to get a lot bigger in the U.S. (We play) American music and we do best in America.”
As for the fans’ reaction to “Sugar,” G. Love says that the upcoming tour will be a good indicator of the album’s success.
“We’ll kind of start to see then how the record did because honestly it takes a minute for a record to get out and for people to get excited about it and get out to the show. We love the record. We think it’s a great record (but) with the music business right now, no one buys records. It just is what it is. People listen to it; they don’t buy it. That’s just the way it is.”
As for the next album to which he alluded, he said: “Things are generally on a 2-year cycle so I would imagine that we’ll continue to write through the winter and the summer and hopefully next fall we’ll be back in the studio.”
Philly area fans will have to wait until this summer for G. Love and company to do another concert in Philadelphia. So if you’re jonesing for some Love you should go to Bethlehem on Jan. 2.
IF YOU GO
What: G. Love & Special Sauce
Where: Sands Bethlehem Event Center, 77 Sands Blvd., Bethlehem.
When: Show is at 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 2.
Ages: All ages.
Tickets: $41.50 at www.sandseventcenter.com or (610)297-7400