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March 8, 2012
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G. Love fully embraces his blues roots on ‘Fixin’ To Die’

By Michael Swanger

G. Love & Special Sauce perform Wednesday, March 14 at 8:30 p.m. at People’s Court. Scott H. Biram, on tour promoting his new album “Bad Ingredients,” opens the show. Tickets are $20 through Ticketfly.

The late blues master Willie Dixon once said, “The blues is the roots and the other musics are the fruits.” That’s the truth. So in an age when most musicians who taste the fruits of success abandon their roots, tip your hat to Garrett “G. Love” Dutton, the funky Philadelphia pioneer of hip-hop blues, for returning to his blues roots and having the guts to speak the truth as he does on his fourth and most sincere Brushfire Records release, “Fixin’ To Die.”

“This is the record I would have made if I was able to get a record deal before I had a stage name, before I met my band and before I stumbled on putting hip-hop and blues together,” said the 39-year-old Dutton. “Before all of that I was an aspiring singer-songwriter and really engaged with Bob Dylan, Lou Reed and The Beatles and was delving deeply into the blues of John Hammond, Big Bill Broonzy and Robert Johnson. So this record is a lifetime coming. It’s a record I’ve been wanting to make my whole career and finally had a record label that wanted me to do it. There’s this thing when you’re making records to have some commercial success, but this time around it was more about making something real and showing my roots.”

Dutton not only credits Brushfire Records, which is owned by his longtime musical friend Jack Johnson, for allowing him to emphasize his unabashed love for country blues, but he also credits Seth and Scott Avett of The Avett Brothers who produced and played on “Fixin’ To Die” for helping him to distill the sepia toned essence of the blues’ time-honored past while simultaneously taking the necessary risks to forge their future. Dutton met The Avett Brothers a couple of years ago at a music festival where they jammed together and discovered not only a mutual appreciation for back road blues, but an ability to work together.

“Those guys are two of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, but they’re also amazing musicians with an amazing work ethic and fun to be around,” Dutton said. “The nine days we spent making this record were nine of the happiest days of my life. Don’t tell my fiance that because she wasn’t there, but it was unbelievable.”

The joy and artistic freedom that Dutton experienced recording “Fixin’ To Die” is evident. Dutton mines the sonic ore of his bottleneck slide guitar heroes — John Hammond, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Bukka White and Robert Johnson — to emerge with a fresh lode of precious musical stones. The album is a collection of original songs, including two that he wrote when he was 16 years old (“Walk On” and “Get Goin’”), as well as rearranged covers that include the title tune written by White, Blind Willie McTell’s “You’ve Got to Die,” Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and the Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes.”

“I want to carry on the tradition of the blues, but take it to the next step. Inevitably when you play the blues you’re going back in time to the roots of rock ‘n’ roll and pop music, and there are a myriad of journeys you can take,” he said. “But I want to take what I’ve learned and put it in a song about stuff that I know about. By continuing to write new music that is reminiscent of old music, you’re pushing it forward in your own way.”

Though Dutton promises to continue merging hip-hop and blues at his concerts and on his records, he wants to further establish himself as a roots music artist, something that he has cultivated during the last 19 years but never fully embraced until now. With maturity comes a better understanding of the importance of making honest music without all the usual trappings.

“I’m more seasoned as a performer, singer and guitar player now,” he said. “So it sounds more authentic to me and something I would want to listen to as opposed to how it would have sounded 20 years ago when I was a kid. This record is like a new chapter in my career and what the next 20 years will sound like. It’s been a longtime coming, but it’s worth the wait.” CV

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