G. Love & Special Sauce: Still Cooking

Oct 25, 2015
Originally published on October 27, 2015 1:11 pm

In the beginning, there was the blues. A while later, there was hip-hop. And then, in the early 1990s, the musical melting pot of G. Love and Special Sauce served up something called hip-hop blues.

Now, 10 albums in, G. Love and Special Sauce are still cooking with help from artists including DJ Logic, Citizen Cope, Ozomatli and David Hidalgo from Los Lobos. The band's new album is called Love Saves The Day, and frontman G. Love joined NPR's Rachel Martin from the studios of WBGH in Boston to talk about it. Hear their conversation at the audio link.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In the beginning, there was the blues. A while later, there was hip-hop. And in the early '90s, the musical melting pot of G. Love and Special Sauce served up something called hip-hop blues.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COLD BEVERAGE")

G. LOVE: (Singing) Yo, could I get a cold beverage? I need some leverage. It's sunny outside. Some lemonade would be nice or a Sprite through the drive through at B.K.

MARTIN: Now, 10 albums in, G. Love and Special Sauce are still cooking with help from artists including D.J. Logic, Citizen Cope and David Hidalgo from Los Lobos. The new album is called "Love Saves The Day."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BABY WHY YOU DO ME LIKE THAT?")

LOVE: (Singing) Baby, why you do me like that? I don't know. Baby, why you do me like that? I don't know.

MARTIN: G. Love joins us from the studios of WGBH in Boston. Welcome to the show.

LOVE: Hey, Rachel, thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So the Special Sauce, as it pertains to the band, is made up of Jimi Jazz Prescott ,who plays upright bass, and drummer Jeffrey The Houseman Clemens. How long have the three of you known each other?

LOVE: Well, I met my drummer, Jeff, in December of 1992. I moved up here from Philadelphia to be a street musician, and one of my first gigs in a actual bar, he saw me play and approached to me. And a couple weeks later, we got Jimi Jazz. And then nine months after our first rehearsal, we had a record deal with Epic Records so it was a pretty magical time.

MARTIN: You reach back to some classic blues on this album. And I want to point out in particular a song that you revisit. You do a song by Lead Belly.

LOVE: Yeah.

MARTIN: And just to hear the contrast, let's first listen to a little bit of the original.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NEW YORK CITY")

LEAD BELLY: (Singing) I'm in New York City. I'm going to lower my line. New York City is high timing. New York City. It ain't a city.

MARTIN: And now, here's your version. This is a duet you do with singer Lucinda Williams.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NEW YORK CITY")

LUCINDA WILLIAMS: (Singing) When your gammy be calling, it looks like rain. Sit down inside, catch a subway train.

LOVE: (Singing) New York City. Ain't that a city. New York City, baby, you've got to know my line. All right.

(Laughter).

MARTIN: That's cool.

LOVE: Yeah, that's cool. You know, we've all been such huge fans over the years, and especially Jeff, the drummer, is a huge fan of Lucinda. And honestly, she was ready to cut anything. But in the meantime, I had kind of gone through some of Lead Belly's back catalog. And this song, "New York City," you know, I'm from Philly. I live in Boston. But I love New York City. And I thought this song was anthemic. It's obviously just about the first time maybe Lead Belly ever went to New York City and just fell in love, too. And I put it on and I was like, man, what an anthem for New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NEW YORK CITY")

LOVE: (Singing) New York City, baby, got to know my line.

MARTIN: It's not like all these songs are a mash-up up of hip-hop and blues. There's one on here that is especially funky. Let's just put it that way. Let's listen to "Let's Have A Good Time."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET'S HAVE A GOOD TIME")

LOVE: (Singing) Everybody in this place. Everybody going to get a little drink. Everybody...

We asked our friends Ozomatli, who are, I think, two or four or 10-time Grammy award-winners. And we've done a lot...

MARTIN: That's a pretty good backup band (laughter).

LOVE: Yeah, you think? We'd done a lot of touring with those guys all around the world over the years and you can't find a nicer group of guys or a more profound group of musicians. I mean, these guys just really can play and have great sense. And they'd join us on that one and two other songs on the record, as well. And just seeing old friends, it's - I'm getting teared up just thinking about those guys. I love them so much (laughter).

MARTIN: I've been to an Ozomatli show and what always strikes me is they just bring it every time.

LOVE: Oh, yeah.

MARTIN: And I just think that would be hard. I mean, to - every time you get on a stage - it doesn't matter if it's, like, this track you love to play - to just be present and to put on a really good show. I imagine - I mean, I guess that's - that's what you do for a living. That's what you get paid the big money, but...

LOVE: Yeah, but try and go on after them.

(LAUGHTER)

LOVE: It's hard.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET'S HAVE A GOOD TIME")

LOVE: (Singing) Let's have a good time.

I'm really proud about this record. I think that, for us, we feel like we really achieved a really great pinnacle of creativity and also of performance.

MARTIN: Pinnacle of creativity, that's pretty big.

LOVE: (Laughter).

MARTIN: What do you do after you've been to the top of the mountain, after you have made what you call the best that you've ever done?

LOVE: Well, I mean, I didn't say we're at the top of the mountain. We're still climbing up it.

(LAUGHTER)

LOVE: But I do think it is a high point for us. And I think now when I'm - as a writer, I really - I like to let ideas kind of kick around for a while and then when it actually comes time to finish a tune, just make sure that it's not forced at all. It's 100 percent real inspiration, and it's not contrived in any way. And it's saying something and it's honest and it's everything that a great song should be.

MARTIN: The new album from G. Love and Special Sauce is called "Love Saves The Day." G. Love joined us from the studios of WGBH in Boston. Thank you so much for talking with us.

LOVE: Thank you so much, Rachel, and thanks to all listeners out there. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.