‘Hustle’: another exuberant G. Love tunefest
Are you adequately prepared to rock? Here are reviews of recent rock releases:G. Love & Special Sauce, “The Hustle”produced by Mario Caldato, Jr. (Brushfire Records)Garrett Dutton III – better known by the more hip-hopping G. Love – claims to take a turn with “The Hustle,” his sixth studio album. It is his first recording for Brushfire Records, the label run by his friend and touring partner Jack Johnson, and it is a post-romantic breakup document, which he says is reflected in the more personal nature of the material.The listener, though, has to scratch hard to find the change of course; “The Hustle” sounds like good ol’ G. If Love has experienced down times, he’s coped with them by making another exuberant, soul-lifting record. Yes, the album begins with Love lamenting “Some of these days just can’t seem to get out of bed,” but the song “Astronaut” is a thrasher about blasting off from a rough relationship. Similarly, “Don’t Drop It!” with Love’s rapid-fire rapping, seems like a message to self to keep on keeping on. The downbeat comes with the title track, a slow blues, but even that has a measure of light: “Everything’s a hustle but love.”Since the first album that introduced Love’s mix of folk blues and hip-hop – a style he has called rag-mop – Love has continued to expand his sound. He continues treading new sonic ground here. Love teams with his boss, Johnson, on the gentle, reggaeish “Give It to You.” “Love” is folk rock with a mid-60s flair. And Love explores a samba beat on “Two Birds,” brand new ground for him.
John Fogerty, “Deja Vu All Over Again”(Geffen)Every few years, John Fogerty conjures up the old magic and makes a solo album that erases the years that have piled up since he was leading Creedence Clearwater Revival. Fogerty seems to think he can do it once more; check out the title to his first release since 1997’s excellent “Blue Moon Swamp.””Deja Vu All Over Again,” however, offers only the briefest flashes back to 1968. The anti-war title song does effectively collapse the decades that separate the Vietnam era from the Iraq era: “Started with a whisper like it did before/Day by day we count the dead and dying,” Fogerty sings over chord changes that echo, but don’t mimic, the CCR hit “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” But Fogerty makes it quite clear that “Deja Vu All Over Again” won’t be all anti-war plaint. The next tune is the catchy, feather-weight finger-snapper, “Sugar-Sugar (In My Life),” a celebration of domestic happiness. Not exactly “Fortunate Son.” Fogerty is content to carry on as a lightweight through most of “Deja Vu All Over Again.” The stab at humor in “She’s Got Baggage” reminds one of a middling sitcom; with its synthesizer, “Razor” is, of all things, reminiscent of ’80s new wave and is as disposable as most of its ilk. The tired idea behind “Nobody’s Here Anymore” – how the wired world leaves us more disconnected than ever – wastes some stinging lead guitar by Mark Knopfler.Fogerty is better when he reaches back even further than the CCR days. “Honey Do” is a neat homage to Carl Perkins’ “Honey Don’t.” The sweet pair of “Rhubarb Pie” and “I Will Walk With You” reflects Fogerty’s passion for bluegrass and old-time acoustic music, which at this point seems to be his strongest suit.
Gov’t Mule, “Déjà Voodoo”produced by Warren Haynes and Michael Barbiero (ATO Records)Finally, after numerous guest-filled “Deep End” projects made in the wake of bassist Allen Woody’s death, Gov’t Mule gets down to the business of being a band again. “Déjà Voodoo” is the band’s first album to sport the solidified lineup, with bassist Andy Hess and keyboardist Danny Louis.The fact remains that any band that includes Warren Haynes is going to bear the singer-guitarist’s imprint, loud and clear. “Déjà Voodoo” actually hearkens back to Gov’t Mule’s earliest albums: It’s harder and almost minimalist compared to the jammier “Deep End” projects. And what stands out, of course, is Haynes’ guitar-playing and singing, both southern-soaked. Haynes’ voice is distinctive and diverse enough. But its consistently gruff tone is no comparison for his guitar work, which knows no bounds. Haynes gets dark and jazzy on the coda to “About to Rage,” providing a sharp contrast to the thick power chords in the body of the song. There is a George Harrison-esque tilt to his playing on both “Little Toy Brain” and “Silent Scream” – Haynes frequently covers Beatles tunes – and on “Slackjaw Jezebel,” Haynes digs into Albert King-style blues.Lyrically, Haynes is still working out some anger. His signature tune, the soothing “Soulshine,” which he plays with all of his groups (Allman Brothers, Phil & Friends, etc.), seems light years away emotionally. “Mr. Man” promises a vengeful day for those with “no concern for the people dying”; “About to Rage” assures a similar fate for the world generally: “Storm’s about to rage, about to rage/Hesitation is a hole in the head.”Gov’t Mule may exist in the jam-band world. But with the hard sound and harsh words of “Déjà Voodoo,” they continue to stake out their own dark corner there.
North Mississippi Allstars, “Hill Country Revue”produced by John Alagia, Hank Neuberger & Terry Fryer (ATO Records)Maybe because their sound is so raw and natural, perhaps because they’ve been on several live compilation CDs, or possibly because they have performed so frequently in Aspen, it seems like the North Mississippi Allstars have put out several live CDs. In fact, “Hill Country Revue,” recorded at this summer’s Bonnaroo in Tennessee, is their first official live release.Though familiar sounding, “Hill Country Revue” provides everything a fan would desire of a live album. The band’s core blues-rock tunes get stretched out, as on a medley of “Po Black Maddie” and “Skinny Woman” (both tunes written by the band’s godfather, Mississippi Hill Country bluesman R.L. Burnside, father of Allstar Duwayne Burnside.) There are guests galore, including the elder Burnside; Jim Dickinson, father of Allstars Luther and Cody; Widespread Panic keyboardist Jojo Hermann, who has a side project, Smiling Assassins, with the Dickinson boys; and Black Crows frontman Chris Robinson. There are tunes – Ry Cooder’s “Boomer’s Story,” Otha Turner’s “Shimmy She Wobble,” and Milton Campbell’s “Friend of Mine” – that haven’t appeared on previous recordings.Predictably, the live album is short on songs from “Polaris,” the band’s last studio release that veered sharply from the earlier straight-up blues-rock. The “Polaris” tunes that do make it here – “Never In All My Days,” “Be So Glad” and “Bad Bad Pain” – are those that tread closest to the original sound.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com