G Love & Special Sauce
If you find yourself in a world full of trouble just call on G
“We can change the world in a week or a day and if you’ve got a problem man, I’ll sweep them away if you find yourself in a world full of trouble just call on G. Love the superhero brother and I’ll be there” Superhero Brother
G. Love and Special Sauce’s Superhero Brother is their third album for Jack Johnson’s Brushfire label, and 10th overall (counting their 2002 best-of and last year’s live CD/DVD) in a career that now spans 15 years.
It’s been a long, successful run for the Philadelphia native and self-described “hip-hop blues artist,” whose self-titled 1994 Okeh/Epic Records debut was certified Gold on the strength of the MTV hit, “Cold Beverage,” and a non-stop performing ethic that still has them playing more than 150 shows a year. In fact, the group just recently returned from a headline tour in Australia that was highlighted by some shows with Jack Johnson, and will accompany him to Europe this spring. Upon their return to the U.S., the band will be headlining their own outdoor amphitheatre tour with John Butler Trio later this summer. “We’re a hard-working band,” says G. Love of the group’s turnaround over the last two albums, 2006’s Lemonade and 2004’s The Hustle. “Every time we hit the stage or the studio, we make sure we give 150%. Playing in front of people is just such an integral part of the experience for us. We love to ride that energy and get that instant reaction.” Superhero Brother, recorded in Philadelphia at The Studio and the band’s own Philadelphonic Studios, as well as Longview Farms Barn in Sturbridge, MA, combines both political and party songs. The album is a reflection of the band’s eclectic recipe for its Special Sauce, from tasty, post-hip-hop Beatles-influenced blues-rock (“Communication”), spicy tropical island rhythms over an Archie Bell and the Drells “Tighten Up” groove (“City Livin’”) and well-seasoned Chambers Brothers-style funk-rock crossed with Cream’s “I Feel Free” (“What We Need”) to sweet, blue-eyed Philly soul (“Crumble”), a red-hot Stones-y “Sympathy for the Devil” vibe (“Peace Love and Happiness”) and homemade, rappin’ blues layered on top of a John Lee Hooker Delta stomp (“Superhero Brother”).
“I think of us as a rock and roll group,” explains G. Love. “We definitely incorporate a lot of different flavors, which is why we tried to focus on what we’re known for this time… Making sure the backbeats are funky. Each song tells a unique story, both in subject and musical style.” Tracks like “Peace Love and Happiness” and the title cut deal with social issues, something G. found hard to ignore.
“With the election coming up and the war on everybody’s minds, there’s no way some of those feelings could’ve escaped being on this record,” he says.
“Peace Love and Happiness” was inspired by a trip G. Love made to the same slums of Rio de Janeiro depicted in the movie City of God, asking pointed questions like “How come the presidents just build more bombs/When they should start disarming?/With all that money spent on guns/Instead of food and education.” “The experience just hit me really hard,” he admits. “We had this great day playing music for the kids. I just went straight back to the hotel and wrote the song before the show, then performed it for them.”
“Superhero Brother” finds G. Love playing the role of savior, with tongue firmly in cheek and harp in mouth as he name-checks Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden, Britney Spears, Jesus and the whole cast of Friends, vowing to solve the myriad of problems in the Middle East by sending the troops on the first plane home to their moms.
“Wiggle Worm” combines G’s Little Walter blues harp, Houseman’s big rock drum beat a la Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” and ex-Goats member Mark Boyce’s Dr. Dre keyboard swoops into a brand-new dance craze, while “Soft and Sweet” boasts rap rhythms, acoustic guitars and a Dylanesque harp. “I wrote ‘Soft and Sweet’ in Costa Rica several years ago on vacation, imagining how great fatherhood was going to be,” says G. “These days, it’s all about music and being a dad.”
“Wontcha Come Home” is a cover of an old Jamaican rock steady song by The Conquerers on the famed Trojan label, buttressed by Jazz and Houseman’s Sly & Robbie-like rhythm section, while the rollicking “Who’s Got the Weed,” featuring The Pharcyde MC Slim Kid Tre, begins with a bong hit and recounts the true story of Love trying to smuggle some particularly pungent homegrown Buddha aboard a plane in his shoe while stinking up the whole aisle. “I keep the crip close to my hip,” he sings. G. Love acknowledges the band has been helped over the last few years by their association with Jack Johnson, which began when they invited the then-unknown surfer to play on their 1999 album Philadelphonic.
“He’s definitely returned the favor a thousand times,” says G. “He’s always had our backs. Creatively, it’s been terrific because I’ve really connected with [Brushfire owner] Emmett Malloy, who serves as our A&R guy. He’s great at picking the best material from my demos. The recording sessions for this album were the best we’ve ever had.” Taking advantage of the vast new ways to connect with his fans, G. Love now consistently blogs and fanatically posts videos on YouTube, which track him rehearsing songs in various stages of development. He’s also penned a children’s book, appeared in an independent film, Rigged, produced blues legend John Hammond’s recent album, Push Comes to Shove, and is currently working on a musicians’ guide called 101 Ways Not to Fuck Up Your Chances of Being a Rock Star: A Pocket Guide for Navigating Your Way Through the Treacherous Seas of the Modern Music Industry. And if anyone knows that subject, it’s G. Love.
“We’ve definitely had some ups and downs, some hot and cool spots, but we’re still plugging away,” he says. “The thing about making a record is, you never know what’s gonna happen. Anytime you go into the studio, it’s like buying a lottery ticket.” With the release of Superhero Brother, though, G. Love & Special Sauce are feeling lucky.
“This is the age of the independent record label,” he acknowledges. “It’s an exciting and scary time to be doing what we’re doing. We feel we’re in a great place both musically and being part of this Brushfire community. The fans have been very supportive. As a touring band with a great base, that’s the rock on which all this is built.” Superhero Brother only strengthens that foundation.
"Baby's Got Sauce"
"Kiss and Tell"
"Sweet Sugar Mama"
"Free at Last"
"Peace, Love, and Happiness"