Monday, January 30, 2006

G. Love raps and rocks at the McDonald

It's 1999. The waves off the Southern California coast are breaking, creating a sound of thunder before smoothing themselves out into a phosphorescent blanket of blue that reaches like a handshake onto the golden sands of Topanga, a city just south of Malibu, Calif. Garrett Dutton and Jack Johnson are paddling out, soon to transition from stomach to standing in the burgeoning whitewater. After a day challenging walls of water and soaking in sunshine, Dutton and Johnson grab their guitars and start swapping sounds and songs as the breeze of a cool, California night creeps onto the beach.

G. Love & Special Sauce. 9 pm • Fri. 1/27. McDonald Theatre. $17.50 adv/$20dos
It must be tough being popular young rock stars.

Jack Johnson is … Jack Johnson, the bane of guitar-strumming surfers everywhere and the singer/songwriter behind albums like Brushfire Fairytales and In Between Dreams. Garrett Dutton is G. Love, the vocalist/guitarist who travels town to town with his band Special Sauce spreading his hip hop blues sound and playing a mean harmonica.

G. Love & Special Sauce released their most recent album, The Hustle, on Johnson's Brushfire Records in 2004, solidifying a business relationship that began on the coast of California, amongst waves and whitewater, almost seven years ago. This was G. Love & Special Sauce's sixth release of what G. Love calls "hip hop blues," a combination of laid-back, sometimes funny rap lyrics over James "Jimi Jazz" Prescott's stand-up baselines and Jeffrey "Houseman" Clemens' drumming.

The Hustle features guest performances from Money Mark, Jason Yates of Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals and G. Love's sun-drenched surfing buddy Johnson. This album has been called G. Love's most diverse, moving from classic G. Love funk-tinged beats like "Astronaut" to more mellowed compositions like "Two Birds."

The band credits some familiar names as their inspiration, including Bob Dylan, The Beatles and the Ramones. But it's obvious that G. Love was also swayed by the skills of hip hop and blues artists, and he does consider KRS One, John Lee Hooker and De La Soul influences. The influence of 1940s to 1960s jazz sounds from classic ensembles behind the likes of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker are noticeable as well, especially in Jimi Jazz's baselines.

But, more than anything, this is laid-back music. It's music you could play, say, on a California beach after plunging down the faces of giant waves with your rock star buddies.