G. Love's voice rides a roller coaster of melodies — up, down, and around hairpin turns, with a crafty grace that owes as much to old-school hip-hop as it does to classic R&B. While Love (born Garrett Dutton) gets top billing, his music's most distinctive element is his backing band's shuffling, skittering rhythm: a joyous, upbeat bounce coupled with a generous, inviting spirit. It's casual good-time music for folks who like casual good times.
G. Love & Special Sauce formed as a trio 16 years ago, when "Cold Beverage" (from their self-titled debut) became a minor hit and established Love's limber jive and the band's trademark rhythmic wobble. The 1996 follow-up, Coast to Coast Motel, was succeeded by a string of increasingly less focused albums, culminating in the mishmash mess of Electric Mile seven years ago. A rare highlight of this period is 1999's "Rodeo Clowns," which introduced the world to surfin' singer-songwriter Jack Johnson — who signed Love and Sauce to his Brushfire label after they were dropped by their record company.
The resulting album — 2004's Hustle — revitalized the group, as did guests Johnson, Money Mark, and Beastie Boys producer Mario Caldato Jr. Hustle was a welcome return to the bread-and-butter blend of hip-hop and American roots music that first put G. Love on the musical map. The addition of organist Mark Boyce on 2006's Lemonade adds roots rag and swing to the folk-blues mix. The CD includes some of Love's best songs — like the shambling folk-hop "Ain't That Right" and "Beautiful," a soulful, bluesy duet with Tristan Prettyman. Expect to hear plenty of the new tunes when the group comes to town this week.