The Bowery Presents
G. Love & Special Sauce

G. Love & Special Sauce

The Bones of J.R. Jones

Thu, January 26, 2017

Doors: 6:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Brooklyn Bowl

Brooklyn, NY

This event is 21 and over

G. Love & Special Sauce
G. Love & Special Sauce
Twenty years after the release of their self-titled debut and eight years since their last live performance together, the original lineup of G. Love & Special Sauce return with their first album in nearly a decade. Built on the trio’s signature hip-hop blues sound, Sugar finds vocalist/guitarist/harmonica player G. Love (aka Garrett Dutton), upright bassist James “Jimi Jazz” Prescott, and drummer Jeffrey “The Houseman” Clemens breathing new life into their groove-heavy, Chicago-blues-infused brand of stripped-down rock & roll. “The goal for the album was to make it really raw and immediate, with live takes and live vocals and everybody playing so that it all comes together in that intangible way,” says G. Love. “That’s what our music is all about.”

Recorded mainly at Brushfire Records’ “Solar Powered Plastic Plant” studio in Los Angeles, Sugar captures the unstoppable energy of a band who got their start in Boston bars in the early ‘90s and still play up to 150 shows a year. “We wanted to take it back to the old-school vibe of the first record, those rich, warm sounds from when we were rocking small clubs and going on that acoustic feeling,” says Prescott. To deepen that dynamic and push their sound into new directions, G. Love & Special Sauce called in guest musicians like Los Lobos guitarist David Hidalgo (who appears on three of the album’s tracks), soul/R&B singer/songwriter Marc Broussard, and the legendary vocalist Merry Clayton (best known for her duet with Mick Jagger on the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”). “Recording at Brushfire was one of those super-magical sessions—it just felt right and really true to the style of this band,” notes G. Love, who also recorded several of Sugar’s tracks in Seattle with Clemens and bassist Timo Shanko.

While most of the first songs G. Love penned for Sugar were written in response to a recent breakup, the album ended up morphing into a gritty but joyful look at the thrill and grind of getting by as a musician. At the album’s heart is the swaggering title track, which fuses Elmore James-inspired slide licks with big and bouncy hip-hop beats. That mood is matched on tracks like “Good Life” (a Bo Diddley-style jam powered by the fiery guitar work of David Hidalgo), “Saturday Night” (a steamy serenade to New York City, laced with sultry vocals by Alabama-bred folk/soul singer/songwriter Kristy Lee), and “Weekend Dance” (an all-out party anthem fueled by sweet and smoldering horns, co-written by Eric Krasno and featuring rapper Shamarr Allen). Meanwhile, “Too Much Month” serves as a brilliantly bittersweet ode to being broke (“I got too much month for the end of my money/And not enough money for the end of the month”), and “Nite Life” slyly warns of the dangers of rock & roll living in its groove-laden take on John Lee Hooker’s “Whiskey and Wimmin.”

Peppered throughout Sugar are a handful of love songs of all stripes, from the moody, brooding breakup ballad “Windshield Wipers” to the bruised but breezy “Cheating Heart” (featuring Eric Krasno on lead guitar and background vocals) to “Bad Girl Baby Blues” (an acoustic, guitar-and-vocals-only track whose lyrics spin a daydream tale of an ideal night at home, complete with drinking red wine out of pawn-shop-bought glasses). And on “One Night Romance” (written by Kristy Lee and featuring vocals from both Lee and Merry Clayton), Sugar turns soulful and seductive in its harmony-soaked plea to “come get unlonely with me.”

In bringing Sugar to life, G. Love & Special Sauce mined musical sources as varied as the hypnotic blues-guitar work of John P. Hammond and John Lee Hooker, the boundary-bending rhythms of The Meters and Lee Dorsey, and the infectious beats and seamless flow of hip-hop pioneers like A Tribe Called Quest, The Beastie Boys, and De La Soul. And although each band member brings his own distinct influences to their creative collaboration—G. Love’s lyrics draw inspiration from the street-wise storytelling of Lou Reed, Prescott is highly studied in New Orleans jazz, and Clemens’s drumming references everything from early-‘70s Nigerian funk to the rocksteady era of reggae—Sugar again reveals the uncommon intensity and power of their musical synergy. “There’s a certain natural, unspoken chemistry between the three of us,” says Clemens. “Because we’re all very different individuals and oftentimes do our best communicating through our instruments, we’re able to meet in a musical conversation where others might not be able to.”

For G. Love & Special Sauce, that conversation began back in 1993, when G. Love serendipitously took the stage as a fill-in opening act at the Irish pub where Clemens’s then-girlfriend waited tables. “I’d had this idea that I needed to find a kid who could play blues but also rap, and that’s exactly what I got,” says Clemens. “It was like, ‘This is the kid that’s speaking the language I hear in my head.’” Then 19, G. Love had recently moved to Boston from his native Philadelphia, where he first picked up a guitar at age eight and spent much of his teen years as a street musician. “I grew up right by a place called South Street where there were a lot of street performers, from puppeteers to this guy playing Mozart on wine glasses to classical guitar players,” he says. “One night I was out there and I finished playing a riff on my song and started rapping the lyrics to ‘Paid in Full’ by Eric B. & Rakim over a groove, and I was like, ‘Holy shit—that’s it.’” Heading to Boston the same summer he first started developing that hip-hop/blues hybrid, G. Love quickly connected with Clemens, who then tapped Prescott (a local musician he’d met through a jazz jam session). Within a week the three got together for a rehearsal—featuring G. Love on Dobro guitar, Clemens on a vintage drum kit with brushes instead of sticks, and Prescott on upright bass—and soon began working on songs for their debut album.

Propelled by hit singles like “Cold Beverage” and “Baby’s Got Sauce,” G. Love and Special Sauce ultimately reached gold status and helped the band build a following that endures today. One of the songs originally written for that album (and inspired by G. Love’s early days in Boston and “those nights when I would just walk around and try to get somebody to buy me a pint of Jim Beam”), “Run for Me” makes its first-ever recorded appearance on Sugar and remains timeless in its portrait of the struggle of pursuing a musical passion. “At first I thought this record was gonna be a heartbreak record about my old relationship, but then the sentiment shifted,” says G. Love. “A lot of the songs became about coming up from where we started to where are now and still keeping it going, still staying afloat,” he continues. “To me that’s a much more interesting story to tell.”
To create their down and dirty "trashcan blues" sound, G. Love and Special Sauce returned to Brushfire Records' Solar Powered Plastic Plant in Los Angeles. The band was excited to reteam with Sugar engineer and producer Robert Carranza (Jack Johnson, Beastie Boys, Mars Volta). They recorded live with few edits to capture the immediacy of the music: G. Love making his guitar snarl and his harmonica moan, bassist Prescott bringing nimble funk to the bottom end and Clemens' drum work crackling with power. "The music," G. Love enthuses, "jumped off the tape."

The new album completes the trilogy for G. Love that started with 2011's Fixin To Die. That disc stripped his music down to its roots and saw him record with The Avett Brothers, while Sugar, in G. Love's words, "reconnected the blues with the electric side" and reunited the original trio to create the band's signature style of blending John Lee Hooker blues with "Golden Era" hip-hop beats. On Love Saves The Day the group dives even deeper, making the grooves heavier, the music rawer and the performances more authentic.

G. Love also feels Love Saves The Day is his most rock 'n' roll record yet. Just listen to the title track that opens the album and you'll hear why. This blast of furious blues, powered by David Hidalgo's wicked guitar work, stands toe-to-toe with the classic work of Cream and the other blues-inspired bands of the '60s and early '70s. Hidalgo, a returnee from the Sugar sessions, plays on two other songs, "Dis Song" and "That Girl." Besides being the first tracks recorded, G. Love sees these three tunes as forming the core of the album. They also lead off the release and set the record's rugged, raucous tone.

This wonderfully unruly spirit flows through the revved-up rendition of the old Leadbelly tune "New York City," where G. Love does a delightfully ragged duet with celebrated singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams. On the mesmerizing "Muse," which arose from an all-night writing session he had with his old pal Citizen Cope, G. Love's sinewy slide guitar drives the tune's southern rock/hip-hop hybrid groove. "Baby Why You Do Me Like That" kicks off with scratching from another old friend, D.J. Logic, and features the album's heaviest hip-hop beats. Adding to the groove on "Muse" and "Baby..." is the energetic horn work supplied by L.A. band Ozomatli; however, their contributions really shine on "Let's Have A Good Time," a super funky jam that could have easily been a lost James Brown gem.

Although "Let's Have A Good Time," along with the catchy, power-of-love ode "Peanut Butter Lips," rank as the lighter tunes on the album, the overall lyrical mood, as G. Love easily admits, tends to favor the darker side. Even the seemingly optimistic title track turns heavy towards the end. Standout cut "Back To Boston," which examines a troubled relationship, was written on a drive from New York City to Boston. Longtime fans will recognize the tune from the acoustic EP Bloodshot & Blue, but G. Love wanted to give it the full-band treatment, with the new version showcasing frequent collaborator Mark Boyce's jazzy organ work. The rough-hewn performances on tracks like "That Girl," "Pick Up The Phone" and "R U Kidding Me...!" further reflect the lyrics' raw emotions, with the sharp-tongued "Dis Song" representing the peak of, as G. Love calls it, "pissed-off-ness."

Whether angrily railing about a girl with a "shotgun tongue" in "Dis Song," joyfully leading a party celebration in "Let's Have A Good Time," or solemnly addressing love woes on the solo acoustic tune "Lil' Run Around," G. Love's vocals vividly express historn-from-the-heart emotions. He has been putting more emphasis on his singing in the past few years, and feels his vocals on the new album are his strongest ever. G. Love admits that singing with Citizen Cope and Lucinda Williams on this album, and the great session singer Merry Clayton on Sugar, made him raise his game.

He certainly has come a long way in the 20 years since drummer Clemens discovered him performing in a Boston pub. The two started playing together and, after Clemens brought in upright bassist Prescott, G. Love & Special Sauce was born. Their self-titled debut, featuring the hit "Cold Beverage," wound up going gold. The band became known for their live shows and performed around the world. G. Love has played with and without Special Sauce over the years, but now the trio is back together and it feels right. G. Love believes the current manifestation of the band is stronger than ever and is riding a creative high, adding "and we didn't want to kill each other."

Love Saves The Day marks G. Love's sixth with Brushfire Records and he's thrilled with their relationship. He lauds label chief Emmett Malloy as someone driven by creativity first and whose aesthetic tastes he trusts. G. Love views today's music world as the Wild West, with "all the lines washed away;" however, his genre-blurring music now is more relevant than when he started. "It's a good time to be doing what we are doing," he asserts, noting Gary Clark Jr., Jack White, Robert Randolph and Galactic as some fellow keepers of the blues flame who "maintain the roots but push music forward."

G. Love proudly describes himself as a road dog who "will be touring until I fall off the earth" and plans to keep on pushing with Special Sauce from stage to stage. Whether Love Saves The Day makes one dollar or a million isn't a big concern to him. It stands as a huge success because he made the gritty, honest album that he intended by "keeping it raw, keeping it immediate, keeping it real." It's an approach that he has honed over the years: "be original and be true to what you do."
The Bones of J.R. Jones
The Bones of J.R. Jones
On a recent trip to Southern California, Jonathon Linaberry did the one thing he knows best: he wrote music. That it happened to be during his honeymoon mattered little to the New York-based musician. “I feel like I’m always writing,” the artist who performs as The Bones of J.R. Jones says with a laugh. “I feel ever more confident in the sound I’m trying to create.”

In many ways, Linaberry is a victim of his own creativity. Where some musicians lock themselves away in a studio to create an album or a concrete collection of songs, Linaberry can’t help but write whenever inspiration strikes. The blues singer and multi-instrumentalist, who incorporates elements of old-time folk into the all-encompassing persona of The Bones of J.R. Jones, describes his songwriting as “a continuing evolution.” Nonetheless, he admits he often wishes his ever-wandering creative spirit would settle down. “I would jump at the chance to have the flexibility where I can have six months locked away in a room and focus on one solid cohesive theme for a record,” Linaberry says. “But unfortunately with my schedule I try to cram these songs into the spaces of my life where I can fit them.”

Thankfully, within these delicate cracks of life, Linaberry is able to strike musical gold: The Bones of J.R. Jones’ latest album, Spirit’s Furnace, a crisp nine-track effort that bubbles with barroom dust and hard-won wisdom, finds the musician expanding the scope of his musical vision while stripping away the excess. “I’m a little clearer on the message that I’m trying to put out into the world,” says the singer who has effectively blurred the line between his own life and The Bones J.R. Jones character; he draws evermore from his personal life on his songs, most notably the tender, banjo-plucked “Wedding Song” written day’s before his own nuptials.

“It’s definitely a balance,” Linaberry says of expanding beyond his self-created alter ego. “I try to inhabit this character… whoever it may be. But obviously a huge influence on that is what’s going on at that time in my life. And then I’ll twist it through the spectrum of The Bones of J.R. Jones. It usually gets a lot darker after but they both inform each other.”

While 2014’s Dark Was The Yearling hinted at an artist grappling with his influences, albeit still carving out his own existence, the new Bones of J.R. Jones LP instead “feels a little sharper, a little more defined” to Linaberry. “On this album I’m more confident in my choices and feel better about the performances.”

Linaberry remains a disciple of early 20th-century blues and folk artists like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lightnin’ Hopkins, both of whom the singer discovered in his teenage years. Still, he readily admits more contemporary influences are beginning to creep into his musical oeuvre. “I like to think I’m casting a wider net,” Linaberry says, citing opening Spirit’s Furnace track “13 Kinds” and “I’m Your Broken Dog” as “major departures” for him, what with their heavy folk influences and electric guitar as opposed to his earlier more traditional blues numbers. “I definitely still listen to the folk and blues stuff, but I really try to make a conscious effort to listen to music outside that box — whether it be bands like Sylvan Esso or more pop-influenced stuff,” he adds. “Sometimes you have to find out what the kids are listening to!”

Part of his current challenge, he explains, is paying homage to his influences while still making his own mark. “I am hyperaware of the history that a lot of the music I play brings with it,” he says. “I’m trying my damnedest not to reinvent the wheel but carve out my own voice. It’s very tough to create something in this day and age with everything being a tap away without having a little history involved in it. But it’s about finding that balance where the music does feel fresh and new but also familiar at the same time.”

What has continued to define The Bones of J.R. Jones is the musician’s hypnotic live show. He operates as a one-man band — playing guitar, drums, and singing in unison, creating the feeling of a raucous blues band with more immediacy. However, as a result of his new album’s size and scope there has emerged a stirring impulse in him to bring other musicians onstage.. “These songs are big enough that if I wanted to have another drummer up there with me it would make sense,” he explains. “I’m trying to evolve the live show and the space it lives in.

”Anytime I think about my live show I try to view it from one of my audience member’s perspective,” he concludes. “I do a lot up there. I cover a lot of ground sonically. I’m trying to give myself room to grow.”
Venue Information:
Brooklyn Bowl
61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY, 11249
http://www.brooklynbowl.com/