Following up last year’s commercial and critical success for Sugar, which peaked on the Billboard charts at #49, G. Love and Special Sauce return to their soul-infused blues roots with their latest disc, Love Saves The Day.
The band’s 10th studio album overall and third consecutive release with Brushfire Records since their label debut with 2008’s Superhero Brother, the October 30 release of Love Saves The Day features a slew of guest musicians throughout the album. From contemporary acoustic groove king Citizen Cope to TIME Magazine’s 2002 “Best Songwriter in America” country musician Lucinda Williams.
In fact, six of the 11 songs on the brand new disc feature a different guest artist. Because the album is a product of live in-studio group recording with minimal post-editing, the whole album gives a warm and well-rounded completeness to the sound. The energy behind the songs – there is not a slow track to be found – gives the listener the impression that they are present at an intimate club performance with the band.
For all of the energy and guest spots though, the album is a very quick play. Clocking in at barely one second over 38 minutes, there are no songs over 4:30 and three songs at 3:02 or less, making Love Saves The Day a perfect accompaniment for short, high-energy activities or commutes.
The album opens with a razor sharp guitar twang leading into the title track, “Love Saves The Day” featuring guest musicianship from Los Lobos’ guitarist/vocalist David Hidalgo. Featuring a loud, sloppy and simple blues guitar chord progression, there is plenty of space for lead vocalist Garrett Dutton to croon over his revelation in the saving power of love. A very lo-fi style a la The Black Keys or Jack White with lots of space between the drum beats. The instruments slop around loosely between beats, but are always tight and on time when it counts.
In addition to the title track, Hidalgo contributes to two more songs, a relative quarter of the album. The sharp-tongued “Dis Song” and the lyrically charged “That Girl,” which make up the next two tracks on the album, are early standouts and draw the listener in close to the soulful, self-proclaimed “trashcan blues” style that G. Love helped pioneer in Boston in the early 90s.
The listener is next treated to an upbeat, twangy track with “Dis Song”. Featuring strong and moving harmonica vibrato and a tight repeating riff, the song is dynamic in the way it slows down for the verse and regains speed as Dutton opens up about how his baby turned from “sweet” to “salty” and recognizes she “don’t don’t don’t love me no more.”
But staying true to the upbeat and rambunctious soul empowering music behind the falling out, Dutton eschews being broken up by it: “I guess the joke’s on you cause I just called your bluff” as he moves on, focusing on filling others with love rather than waiting around for this woman to fill him up.
“That Girl” uses a much rawer guitar distortion and simple rock n’ roll drumbeat with crucial fills to pine over the archetypical bad girl. Howling harmonica sounds drive the tension of fatal attraction: “Everybody run, everybody run / She got a shotgun tongue.” Ultimately, the lyrics admit that the only thing one can do is let her go.
Seperation from “That Girl” sees G. Love and Special Sauce hit their roots hard and head “Back To Boston”. Featuring a slower progression over a heavy blues beat and excellent organ work reminiscent of the late 60s throughout the song, the southern jam heralds a hopeful recourse from the blues.
Either on the way back to or out of Boston, the band picked up Lucinda Williams and revisited “New York City”, in the key of the early 1900s pioneer blues musician Lead Belly. “R U Kidding Me?!” is a psychedelic guitar journey up and down the mind’s highway, aching to satiate a need for constant motion and turmoil – life is too short and too fun to be sad and immobile.
What began as a late night jam session that went all night with fellow hip-hop blues sound pioneer Citizen Cope turned into “Muse”, a triumphant trumpet array backing a sinewy slide guitar performance from G. Love. The track is a constant ascending line that builds the listener into an almost hypnotizing groove.
As a whole, the album is immensely fun and easy to replay immediately. Despite the underlying themes of hurt and loss, G. Love and Special sauce remind the listener that it is only as temporary as you let it be if you let love save the day.
DJ Logic and Ozomatli, a seven piece Latin based hip hop/rock blended world fusion and funk contribute on the eighth and ninth tracks of the album, “Baby Why You Do Me Like That?” and “Let’s Have A Good Time”, respectively. Flirting with turntable acrobatics and brass embellishments earlier in the album, each track features a strong focus on each, uniquely matching and elevating the tracks.
Tracks “Peanut Butter Lips” and “Pick Up The Phone” round out the album strong, suggestive manner that all you need to have a good time “any time you’re feeling down” is a positive attitude and genuine love for the strangers you meet or friends you know. Guest vocalist Kristy Lee, a mighty rumble of a musician from Alabama shines on “Pick Up The Phone”.
One of the things that is immediately evident and what makes Love Saves The Day listenable from start to finish and over again is the way the energy behind the collaborations in the studio makes the love palpable.
Having just wrapped up a sting of October dates, G. Love and Special Sauce are gearing up for an announcement for an upcoming winter/spring 2016 tour.