G. Love & Special Sauce
Ripe, The Bones of J.R. Jones
Thu, March 24
Doors: 7:00 pm9:30 Club
G. Love & Special Sauce - (Set time: 9:30 PM)
“When you get the spark, you got to ride that energy,” says G. Love, and that spark certainly ignites on his 10th studio full-length Love Saves The Day. He calls the new release “the fullest realization of the hip-hop blues” that he first pioneered with Special Sauce in the early ‘90s. The album, due out October 30 on Brushfire Records, not only features G. Love’s long-term Special Sauce rhythm section – upright bassist James “Jimi Jazz” Prescott, and drummer Jeffrey “The Houseman” Clemens – but also prominent guest performers including Los Lobos guitarist David Hidalgo, Lucinda Williams, Citizen Cope, Ozomatli, DJ Logic, Money Mark, Zach Gill and Adam Topol.
To create their down and dirty “trashcan blues” sound, G. Love and Special Sauce returned to Brushfire Records’ Solar Powered Plastic Plant in Los Angeles. The band was excited to reteam with Sugar engineer and producer Robert Carranza (Jack Johnson, Beastie Boys, Mars Volta). They recorded live with few edits to capture the immediacy of the music: G. Love making his guitar snarl and his harmonica moan, bassist Prescott bringing nimble funk to the bottom end and Clemens’ drum work crackling with power. “The music,” G. Love enthuses, “jumped off the tape.”
The new album completes the trilogy for G. Love that started with 2011’s Fixin To Die. That disc stripped his music down to its roots and saw him record with The Avett Brothers, while Sugar, in G. Love’s words, “reconnected the blues with the electric side” and reunited the original trio to create the band’s signature style of blending John Lee Hooker blues with “Golden Era” hip-hop beats. On Love Saves The Day the group dives even deeper, making the grooves heavier, the music rawer and the performances more authentic.
G. Love also feels Love Saves The Day is his most rock ‘n’ roll record yet. Just listen to the title track that opens the album and you’ll hear why. This blast of furious blues, powered by David Hidalgo’s wicked guitar work, stands toe-to-toe with the classic work of Cream and the other blues-inspired bands of the ‘60s and early ‘70s. Hidalgo, a returnee from the Sugar sessions, plays on two other songs, “Dis Song” and “That Girl.” Besides being the first tracks recorded, G. Love sees these three tunes as forming the core of the album. They also lead off the release and set the record’s rugged, raucous tone.
This wonderfully unruly spirit flows through the revved-up rendition of the old Leadbelly tune “New York City,” where G. Love does a delightfully ragged duet with celebrated singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams. On the mesmerizing “Muse,” which arose from an all-night writing session he had with his old pal Citizen Cope, G. Love’s sinewy slide guitar drives the tune’s southern rock/hip-hop hybrid groove. “Baby Why You Do Me Like That” kicks off with scratching from another old friend, D.J. Logic, and features the album’s heaviest hip-hop beats. Adding to the groove on “Muse” and “Baby...” is the energetic horn work supplied by L.A. band Ozomatli; however, their contributions really shine on “Let’s Have A Good Time,” a super funky jam that could have easily been a lost James Brown gem.
Although “Let’s Have A Good Time,” along with the catchy, power-of-love ode “Peanut Butter Lips,” rank as the lighter tunes on the album, the overall lyrical mood, as G. Love easily admits, tends to favor the darker side. Even the seemingly optimistic title track turns heavy towards the end. Standout cut “Back To Boston,” which examines a troubled relationship, was written on a drive from New York City to Boston. Longtime fans will recognize the tune from the acoustic EP Bloodshot & Blue, but G. Love wanted to give it the full-band treatment, with the new version showcasing frequent collaborator Mark Boyce’s jazzy organ work. The rough-hewn performances on tracks like “That Girl,” “Pick Up The Phone” and “R U Kidding Me...!” further reflect the lyrics’ raw emotions, with the sharp-tongued “Dis Song” representing the peak of, as G. Love calls it, “pissed-off-ness.”
Whether angrily railing about a girl with a “shotgun tongue” in “Dis Song,” joyfully leading a party celebration in “Let’s Have A Good Time,” or solemnly addressing love woes on the solo acoustic tune “Lil’ Run Around,” G. Love’s vocals vividly express his torn-from-the-heart emotions. He has been putting more emphasis on his singing in the past few years, and feels his vocals on the new album are his strongest ever. G. Love admits that singing with Citizen Cope and Lucinda Williams on this album, and the great session singer Merry Clayton on Sugar, made him raise his game.
He certainly has come a long way in the 20 years since drummer Clemens discovered him performing in a Boston pub. The two started playing together and, after Clemens brought in upright bassist Prescott, G. Love & Special Sauce was born. Their self-titled debut, featuring the hit “Cold Beverage,” wound up going gold. The band became known for their live shows and performed around the world. G. Love has played with and without Special Sauce over the years, but now the trio is back together and it feels right. G. Love believes the current manifestation of the band is stronger than ever and is riding a creative high, adding “and we didn’t want to kill each other.”
Love Saves The Day marks G. Love’s sixth with Brushfire Records and he’s thrilled with their relationship. He lauds label chief Emmett Malloy as someone driven by creativity first and whose aesthetic tastes he trusts. G. Love views today’s music world as the Wild West, with “all the lines washed away;” however, his genre-blurring music now is more relevant than when he started. “It’s a good time to be doing what we are doing,” he asserts, noting Gary Clark Jr., Jack White, Robert Randolph and Galactic as some fellow keepers of the blues flame who “maintain the roots but push music forward.”
G. Love proudly describes himself as a road dog who “will be touring until I fall off the earth” and plans to keep on pushing with Special Sauce from stage to stage. Whether Love Saves The Day makes one dollar or a million isn’t a big concern to him. It stands as a huge success because he made the gritty, honest album that he intended by “keeping it raw, keeping it immediate, keeping it real.” It’s an approach that he has honed over the years: “be original and be true to what you do.”
Ripe - (Set time: 8:30 PM)
On a primal level, we react to music through movement.
A head-nod, a foot-tap, or a handclap certainly shows appreciation, but dancing seals the eternal bond between audience and musician. Siphoning the spirits of rock, funk, R&B, jazz, and pop through a kaleidoscope of unpredictable and virtuosic improvisation, Boston-based seven-piece Ripe consistently bring people to their feet. Most importantly, they prove that “dance music” in its purest form doesn’t have to come from computers and synthesizers. It can be an unstoppable groove or an extended moment of ecstatic release. Like those bodies moving on the floor, it’s the result of the energy, friction, and communication between living and breathing people. An inimitable and indefinable chemistry has separated and singled out Ripe since day one. Subverting any and all standard genre boundaries once again, their latest offering confidently continues that tradition. These seven musical soulmates —Robbie Wulfsohn [vocals], Tory Geismar [guitar], Jon Becker [guitar], Sampson Hellerman [drums], Josh Shpak [trumpet], Calvin Barthel [trombone], and Nadav Shapira [bass]—once again incite listeners to move on their independent full-length debut, Joy In The Wild Unknown.
“What we make is music you can dance to,” affirms Robbie. “We’re drawn to the peak of a song—the emotional catharsis when everything comes out. It’s all about reaching that moment. The revelation comes back to us when bodies shake with joy.”
“Every time we play, something unique happens,” adds Jon. “You’ll never see the same show twice. We want to bring that unexpected element into the pop sphere.”
Ripe brings the swagger of funk filtered through a rock anthem, a musical journey that somehow gets as stuck in your head as your favorite pop banger.
“We’re gap bridgers,” adds Tory. “If you’ve never heard us, I like to describe our music as, ‘If Maroon 5 and Earth, Wind, & Fire had a baby.’”
Formed during their Berklee College of Music days in 2011, the boys have built a rabid fan base through tireless gigging and a steady stream of music. Following 2013’s Produce The Juice EP, the 2015 Hey Hello EP yielded fan favorites like “Brother Sky,” “Talk To The Moon,” and “Goon Squad,” which clocked over 1 million Spotify streams. Averaging over 100K monthly listeners on Spotify, the group landed looks from the likes of WXPN, Huffington Post, Verge Campus, Boston Globe and Hype Machine love from sites like Ear to the Ground and Indie Obsessive. Along the way, they also hit the stage at festivals such as SweetWater, Levitate, The Rock Boat, High Sierra, LaureLive, Brooklyn Comes Alive, Audiotree, and Summer Camp. The common thread would always be the translation of their individual interplay to their audience, one that Ripe views as not just fans, but old and new friends; an extended family that is rapidly growing as their sound spreads and their world deepens.
“The community is so important,” says Robbie. “We’ve got amazing fans who really show up for us. We want to integrate the camaraderie into everything we do. Now, the goal is to communicate our vision to a much wider demographic.”
Joy In The Wild Unknown represents a creative culmination of a six-year journey. The band tapped the talents of producer Cory Wong of Vulfpeck behind the board. Additionally, five-time GRAMMY® Award winner Joe Visciano [Mark Ronson, Adele, Beck, Coldplay] mixed the music, while mastering came courtesy of Randy Merrill [Lady Gaga, Lorde, Imagine Dragons, Taylor Swift].
Over the course of twelve songs, it finds the elusive sweet spot between jaw-dropping technicality and airtight songcraft as Ripe collectively kick off a fresh, focused, and fiery next phase.
“It took us a long time to get to this album,” Sampson admits. “It never felt right to do a full-length until now. Everything finally locked into place. Just prior, we’d been on the road for a year-and-a-half. So much was happening, growing, and changing. It was the moment to make the record.”
“Simultaneously, this was the ending of a lot of things and the start of something new,” adds Robbie. “This serves as our transition from a band that brings the party towards a band that brings an edge to the party.”
Ripe introduced this body of work with the simmering bass line and wild wallop of the single “Little Lighter,” which quickly shuffles into funked-up guitars and a swooning refrain—“I feel a little lighter.”
Meanwhile, finger-picked acoustic guitar and a delicate beat drive “Downward” as everything climaxes on another festival-ready chant, “This love keeps pulling me downward.”
A chorus of horns fuels “Flipside” before Robbie’s dynamic delivery instantly hypnotizes. Throughout the verses, he shares “the crazy miasma of emotional ups and downs with touring.”
Fittingly, the latter spawned the title, Joy In The Wild Unknown.
“Personally, I’m at the point where every day seems a little bit surreal, because I’m doing the thing I want to do more than anything else with my best friends,” smiles Robbie. “Music is what defines us. It’s what we get to put out into the world. I want to share this deep excitement and happiness. The phrase, ‘Joy In The Wild Unknown,’ spoke to all seven of us.”
Ripe gives the same weight to happiness as is often given to sadness. Their music signifies more than just a distraction from your troubles for a few hours - it’s an experience of connection and acceptance; a warm welcome into their world. In the end, this Joy is shared by an ever-growing community that’ll be dancing every time Ripe roll through town. It’s an extension of the bond between these seven.
“If you’ve never seen us, I want you to feel like you’ve stumbled on a real family upon introduction and get excited and curious about how to get deeper into this world,” Robbie leaves off. “It’s been about building this thing since day one. I hope you leave exhausted from dancing and feel excited to be a part of something. If you feel that way after seeing us, we’ve done our jobs.”
The Bones of J.R. Jones - (Set time: 7:40 PM)
Something happens to Jonathon Linaberry. It’s hard to put your finger on it, but when the musician takes the stage, surrounded by his many instruments, suddenly creating sound, projecting noise, drumming up long-gestating emotions, you know he’s transformed; a sense of purpose and poise envelops the air. “It’s very easy to be a different person when it comes to this project,” says Linaberry, who performs and completely inhabits the persona of the earlytwentieth-century blues musician, The Bones of J.R. Jones. “For me it’s an outlet more than anything else.”
It’s via the live show that The Bones of J.R. Jones has established itself as a spellbinding musical force: there’s Linaberry, all by his lonesome, playing several instruments – guitar, banjo, bass drum, high-hat – all at once, transforming any setting, no matter how visibly modern, into an oldtime roadside juke joint. Now, over several years performing, the traveling troubadour has refined his craft so poignantly as to craft a batch of highly refined, barn-burning blues and folk numbers. They take the form of Dark Was The Yearling, The Bones of J.R. Jones’ mesmerizing new LP.
The first full-length effort, both jarring and meditative in its juxtaposition of snarling electric
guitar licks (“Fury of the Light”), banjo backbeats (“St. James’ Bed”) and acoustic charm (“The
Plan”), is bookended by twin takes on the foot-stomping “Dreams to Tell.”
“That songs never gets old to me,” says Linaberry. “I felt like the album needed two versions of it… for better or worse.” The album’s highlight however, is undoubtedly “The Dark,” a somber ode to the musician’s late grandfather. The harmonic hymnal, written in the hours following the passing of a man whom Linaberry describes as “very much the patriarch” of his family, ended up shaping the entirety of the album, “giving it a much more heavier sound near the end of it.
“That was one of those rare instances that a song did come out in 24 hours,” Linaberry says of “The Dark.” “And it really hasn’t changed since then.”
Crafted by Linaberry over the past year and half following the release of 2012’s The Wildness EP, Dark Was The Yearling, a 12-track collection, was born out of a gradual, introspective writing and recording process. Penning music, the musician explains, is a art form he finds is best never rushed by preconceived expectations or false expectations. “I’m not one of those artists who can sit down and write a song a day,” he says. “I wish it happened more but it can’t be forced.
Linaberry first developed a deep-seeded love for classic folk and blues — the sort best exemplified by early torchbearers like Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lightnin’ Hopkins — 15 years ago after being given a collection of albums entitled “American Roots Music” by his father. He subsequently fully immersed himself in it. “It reshaped my musical landscape,” says Linaberry, whose upstate New York upbringing upstate found him deeply entrenched in the local hardcore
punk-rock scene. “What made me fall in love with the punk scene, I heard again in those records,” he offers. “And I haven’t turned back.”
The idea and promise of timeless music, the kind uncontaminated by passing trend, was greatly appealing to Linaberry. In old-time folk and blues he found “something so precious that you care for. I don’t know where it’s going,” he adds, but I will always be moving in this direction and falling in love with these songs and finding new artists that I can relate to.”
The Bones of J.R. Jones is an ever-evolving project — one that Linaberry will continue to spread via his mesmerizing live shows. Don’t expect to see him with other musicians anytime soon.Performing solo, he says, “became a matter of necessity for me to reach what I felt was anaccurate portrait of what I wanted to represent.”
“For me my biggest fear with doing a one-man band is it would become a gimmick,” he offers.“Like ‘Oh, he’s the one-man band guy.’ I’ve put those reservations aside and fully embraced it.
(Photo Credit: David Kepner)
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001
815 V St. NW
Washington, DC, 20001