G. Love & Special Sauce
Like a classic novel it all starts at a chance meeting one rainy, fall night in Boston, when fellow torchbearers of new roots Americana, Seth and Scott Avett of The Avett Brothers invite Garret Dutton aka G. Love onto their tour bus after a gig to share their love of back road blues. This mutual affinity leads to G. Love sharing the stage with The Avett Brothers at a summer music festival both are playing. The collaboration, sounding so natural and right, deepens, so much so, eventually G. Love asks Scott and Seth Avett to not only play on his new record, he asks them to produce it as well.
Inspired by this shared musical heritage, the result is Fixin’ To Die, a collection of rearranged traditionals, a classic cover, and a slew of G. Love originals, many simmering for over a decade, all sharing a common goal: to strip away all pretense and capture the original spirit and sound G. Love has cultivated over his entire career but never fully embraced until now.
It takes a lot of hard work to speak the truth. And, in an age where most music has been regulated to countless ones and zeros it’s even harder to make honest music without all the usual trappings. On his fourth Brushfire release, G. Love has left the hip-hop blues, a genre he has helped define, if for only a moment to make arguably his most sincere and candid record to date.
As Scott Avett says, “There’s a little bit of this record on all the previous G. Love records, you just had to look for it. This is the record we all knew he should make and he could make, but again, he had to open himself to the core to make it. That’s the difference. Ultimately the songs tell us what needs to happen; it’s just our job to be prepared and identify that. Let’s just get in there and see what the room evokes, and it was just go, go, go, which is the way we like it. I mean the whole session was cut in just over a week.”
As G. Love confesses,
“It was an emotional recording session and I was truly blown away by the level of focus, care and passion Scott & Seth brought to it. We felt connected the entire time – it was instantaneous. It always feels like crunch time in the studio but it never felt like that with these guys. It was a team thing, no drama, no agenda. It was a tremendously positive and encouraging experience. This is the most inspired I’ve ever felt making a record – let’s just put it that way. I’m still buzzing about it.”
It’s easy to hear why. Produced and engineered in the inspiring sanctuary of Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, North Carolina, the sessions underlying pulse is unabashedly, 100% pure and genuine country blues. From the ragged jangle of its opener “Milk & Sugar” and floorboard stomp of Bukka White’s “Fixin’ To Die,” over the loping lilt of “Home” and longing for “Katie Miss,” through the greasy fried “Get Goin’” and moonshine reverb of “Heaven,” to the hip shake hootenanny in Paul Simon’s infamous kiss off “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” G. Love and The Averts deliver a life lesson in how to find a song’s sweet spot.
Best of all Fixin’ to Die is a true divergence from G. Love’s previous records and the function and preparedness of a dogged work ethic by some of music’s hardest working artists who earned their stripes the old-fashion way, veracious songs, road weary odometers, and sweat stained live shows. Yet, with G. Love and The Avetts, it’s more than just stamina and gumption to sound authentic and profound. It’s the ability to distill the sepia toned essence of the time honored past and use it to take the risks needed to forge the future.
Scott Avett remarks, “For me, at a time when I was really into heavy music and leaning that way further and further, G. Love really opened a door that let me see another side of music that was really clever, good vibe, great melodically, great lyrically, and not always about the fight of typical hard core stuff. It baffles Seth and I that the roots world has not just taken G. Love and catapulted him into the sky; he’s a king of that world and they don’t even know it. If John Hammond is, he is; if Bob Dylan is, he is too.”
As an insatiable musical omnivore, G. Love somehow manages to synthesize his iconic influences by shedding their layers to find that harmonic convergence where song and listener bare their souls to each other speaking nothing the raw boned truth. On Fixin’ to Die G. Love has done just that; he has mined the sonic ore of his heroes only to emerge with a fresh lode of precious stones. Yet remarkably, what makes this session such a rarity in today’s music world is the lack of polish that makes these songs truly shine. By allowing the infectious simplicity of these songs to stand in all their ragged glory, G. Love has paid the greatest respect to his muses and the collaborative spirit.
“It’s a nod back and a step forward. It’s a return to the roots of what made me G. Love in the first place. The music I fell in love with and learned as a teenager, which is such a developmental time in one’s life, but especially pivotal in your music life. That when you decide you wanna play guitar right? I was 16 when I discovered folk music, the blues, and Bob Dylan and that was simply the backbone for everything that followed for me musically. I mean this is my second decade as a recording and touring musician. I’m looking into the next phase of my career, and although at heart I’ve always been a roots musician I want to emphasis it more now. I want to carry on the tradition not in a nostalgic way, but by keeping it fresh, real and unexpected, and we did it with this session
Swear And Shake
In a city that offers endless new sounds, New York-based band Swear & Shake’s loyal fan base and earnest talent have driven them on tours across the US and into the focal point of fawning critics. The band’s star seems to be continually on the rise, as they play premiere Manhattan and Brooklyn venues and release their fully-Kickstarter-funded LP, Maple Ridge, only a year after their formation.
Swear & Shake is Kari Spieler (vocals, lyrics, guitar), Adam McHeffey (vocals, lyrics, guitar, banjo, piano), Shaun Savage (electric bass), and Tom Elefante (percussion). The band formed in 2010 after Kari helped Adam record a demo one of his original songs, “Johnnie.” From that moment, they knew they were on to something good. Adam recruited longtime friends Shaun and Tom to flesh out the sounds behind Kari’s soulful, smoky voice and Adam’s catchy folk strumming.
The band was a hit from their first release in November 2010, a five track album aptly titled “Extended Play,” which received over 200,000 Creative Commons downloads in North American and Europe. In the first few months, favorite tunes like “Johnnie” and “Bones” started to pop up in covers on YouTube.
Newsday praised the band, comparing them to indie darlings Mumford & Sons and Bon Iver. New York’s The Deli described front lady Kari’s pipes as “gorgeously full,” and Brooklyn Belles compared her to “a young June Carter Cash.” David Malachowski of the Daily Freeman made clear that Swear and Shake is more than fun sounds and pretty faces. “A haunting postcard from a faraway, warmer place, Spieler’s moving, heartfelt delivery takes this to a higher place,” writes Malachowski. “Daring and direct, Swear & Shake points a finger at you, and you can’t help but respond. Well done.” Frost Click called the band’s EP a “treat” and writes, “There’s no denying the fact that Swear and Shake know how to make amazing sounds. The quartet has a knack for creating a wonderful balance of emotion, instruments, vocals and lyrics; making you want to listen more and more.”
Writing about their appearance at B.O.M.B. Fest opening for Weezer andEdward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Connecticut’s Culture Cache called their sound, “expansive, majestic, harmony-heavy,” and music blog The Indie Kollection wrote, “Musical discoveries like these make me want to move to NY.” Luckily, there’s still time to make the move considering blog The Feast called them “a mainstay on the New York scene.”
Despite the band’s critical acclaim, attending a Swear & Shake show feels like a cozy, crowded room of old friends where a guitar is picked up as the last bottle is poured. Shows at New York institutions like The Living Room, Pete’s Candy Store, The Knitting Factory, Arlene’s Grocery, and the Bitter End have been raucous and full of laughter and dancing. Music blog Sounds That Matter, who had the band record a video for their site testified, “It took me one day to realize I was head over heels for this band.”
Using the crowd-funding site, Kickstarter, the band raised $5,250 ($750 over their goal) from over 100 individual donations to make their latest independent record. Swear and Shake used various social media outlets and endearing quirky video updates to get the word out about their Kickstarter campaign (and released a super adorable impromptu celebratory dance video when they reached their goal). Recording was finished in the early fall and the album, including recent fan favorites like “These White Walls,” “Marbles,” and “Wrecking Ball,” will be available in early 2012.