A quick take on the Avetts album with G. Love
At one point, Philadelphia’s G. Love along with, perhaps, Chris Thomas King, bore the weight of the recording industry’s dim hopes that blues might be resuscitated and sold to a younger, possibly even urban audience.
He found his way to the jam world, and, more recently, to an alliance with Jack Johnson’s Brushfire imprint. (It’s not relevant, but I really don’t understand why Jack Johnson sells records. I’m happy for him; I’m happy for anybody who can make a living creating music. But baffled, nevertheless.)
Since I pay little enough attention these days, the package arriving late last week bearing G. Love’s new album, Fixin’ To Die (to be released February 22) was a bit of surprise. First that they sent it to me (thanks), and second that he’d fallen in with the Avett Brothers, who produced what the press release headlines as a country blues record. “…[T]his new body of work is arguably G. Love’s most sincere and candid work to date.”
That musicians fall in with each other in unlikely combinations on the road is to be expected. Following through to make the record they talked about late at night picking…that doesn’t happen so often.
I’m writing this as I play the results for the first time, and so I don’t mean this for polished criticism. Given that the Avetts’ last album was produced by Rick Rubin, and I don’t think of Seth and Scott yet as established producers, I had a certain kind of guess that Fixin’ To Die would sound like, well, the Carolina Chocolate Drops. I was thinking of the lessons David Rawlings and Gillian Welch seem to have learned from T Bone Burnett’s production, when they struck out on their own.
That’s not what this sounds like.
They have managed to retain the informality of their first meeting, apparently backstage in Boston, and not to gussy up the production with too much pretty. Songs range from a hipster send-up of Paul Simon’s “50 Way to Leave Your Lover” to Bukka White’s title track.
The quotations in the press release read: “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. It was a tremendously positive and encouraging experience. This is the most inspired I’ve ever felt making a record.” That’s G. Love’s soundbite.
Here’s Scott Avett’s comment for publication: “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.”
I’ve seen G. Love a couple times, seems like, and invoked my polite three-song rule before vanishing quietly into the night. I like the idea of him, but mistrust the execution. Too much hipster argot, maybe, and there are always questions about what blues mean when transferred from their time and place.
But I think you can play “Fixin’ To Die” with anything Canned Heat recorded and understand the pleasure both artists took in making the records.
Like I said, that’s not a review I just wrote, just a glimpse at a record I figured y’all would be interested in knowing about.