Its first album was released in 1994, a novelty at the time that combined hip-hop and blues like no band had before. Now every college kid with a MacBook can mash up Muddy Waters and Snoop Dogg, but there is something to be said for this group of rag-tag Philadelphia natives who developed their progressive style before they could legally buy a beer. Almost two decades later the band members have perfected their signature sound and are now exploring their blues roots.
Their dedication to their craft is clear in the recent phone conversation I had with the band's front man Garrett Dutton, who is better known as G. Love, between gigs in Texas. It was a rare break for Dutton and the tight-knit group that's been playing virtually every night for the past several months.
"It's cool because every week is an adventure," said Dutton. "We're not just out there spinning our wheels and going town to town. We are building a musical community."
The musical community they've put together includes an impressive and dedicated fan-base and a long list of collaborations with the likes of Dr. John, John Hammond and Jack Johnson - the band is signed with Johnson's Brushfire Records label - among others. The band's most recent album, Fixin' to Die, was produced by indie-folk rockers The Avett Brothers and the resulting product left the G. Love crew enthused about the prospect of working together again.
The grassroots production of Fixin' to Die is certainly a departure from some of the band's more hip-hop heavy albums, but Dutton explained that making a tribute to Delta blues is something he's wanted his entire career. The Avett Brothers added a touch of their down-home folk to the album, a vibe which makes you want to crack a beer on your porch and take in the sunset. A nod to his musical mentors, Fixin' to Die sounds like a whole different artist than the kid who wrote "Cold Beverages," but the album retains Dutton's youthful charm with songs like "Milk and Sugar."
"If I had gotten a record deal before I met my band and started incorporating hip-hop into the blues, this is the kind of record I would have made," Dutton said. "I wanted to go back to my roots and that Bob Dylan style of writing. It's been a long time coming for me."
The band's adventures have allowed the group to grow not only as artists, but as entrepreneurs as well. G. Love and Special Sauce has released its very own brand of Louisiana-style hot sauce aptly named "G. Love's Special Sauce," the inspiration for which came from sampling delicious dishes across the country while on tour and wanting to recreate them at home.
As far as their upcoming Bend show, expect to hear not only the greatest hits of G. Love's extensive catalogue, but B-sides and blues covers as well.
"If there are some kids at the party, we want to make sure they party their asses off," said Dutton. "If there are people there to see some blues, I want to make sure they get some good guitar licks."
Their high-energy live performances will leave you begging for more of their laid back jams. And there are plenty of folks out there still begging for more.
"The more we go around, we meet people who say we've been to five shows, or 10 shows, 35 shows," he said, "and I'm like, 'Damn! Really?' You're not sick of me yet?'"
G. Love and Special Sauce
8:30pm, Wed. February 29.
Domino Room, 51 NW Greenwood Ave. $21 at bendticket.com, $25 at door.