“I’m coming from a place where Bob Dylan meets the trash-can blues,” says Garrett Dutton—a.k.a. G. Love—about the front-porch philosophy he labels garage phunk. “I go for the energy, and the rhythm is the most important thing. It’s all about locking down the groove, and giving me a bed to paint my vocals over. So I clunk away, stomp my foot, and let that acoustic guitar just drive.”
In 1992, Love began blending hip hop, blues, and rock in his uncommon ensemble, G. Love & Special Sauce, which features James “Jimi Jazz” Prescott on string bass, Jeff Clemons on drums, and Love drawling rhymes and blowing harp over the acoustic resonator that’s his most prized possession.
“My main writing and studio acoustic is a refurbished 1939 Dobro that my father gave me on my 18th birthday as a coming-of-age present,” he says. “I’d wanted one ever since I saw John Hammond, Jr. play when I was a kid. He’s my biggest all-around influence.”
While Love is pictured cradling his beloved Dobro on the cover of the band’s new footstomper, The Hustle [Brushfire/Universal], he’s more likely to be holding a Crucianelli electric or a Gibson J-45 acoustic/electric during a Special Sauce show. “I don’t play the Dobro live very often because it’s pretty tricky to amplify,” he says.
The studio is another story, and The Hustle is loaded with resonator tones. Album co-producer Chris DiBeneditto told Frets he used either a Neumann U67 or M147 positioned close to the Dobro’s 12th fret—as well as a heavily compressed Shure SM57 pointed at the bottom of the resonator cone—to capture the dynamics of Love’s distinct fingerpicking style.
“I do this shucking and plucking thing called chicken scratch,” says Love, who picked up the style from listening to old Lightnin’ Hopkins, Leadbelly, and Robert Johnson records. “You shuck with a thumbpick, and pluck with your first two fingers. Sometimes I’ll grip the bottom of the thumbpick and use it almost like a flatpick for strumming.”
Love is a dedicated front-porch picker, and he still writes a substantial portion of his material at his parents’ house with a glass of lemonade by his side. (He even has the word “lemonade” tattooed on his right bicep.) Although the band will sometimes record a bunch of grooves into Pro Tools, loop the best stuff, and write songs from there, The Hustle was tracked mostly live with just a few overdubs.
Love’s easy-going, homegrown music is seductively strange and compelling—and the stylistic hybrids and modern, loop-based elements add even more spice to the mix. It’s pretty obvious he has been dabbling in eccentric musical mixtures since he first picked up an instrument.
“My high-school folk group consisted of a hippie version of myself, a skinhead, and a Jewish girl singer,” he says. “We were the Peter, Paul & Mary of the ’80s!”