Review: G. Love’s Decisive Journey From North to South

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

G. Love/Philadelphia Mississippi/Thirty Tigers
Three out of Five Stars

As the follow-up to his Grammy-nominated 2020 offering, The Juice, Philadelphia Mississippi represents a change of tack for Garrett Dutton, better known by his professional handle, G. Love. It finds him venturing to the heartlands of Mississippi and recording with a homegrown hero of sorts, Luther Dickinson of the esteemed outfit, The North Mississippi All Stars. In a larger sense, however, it’s a full return, given the fact that Dickinson’s dad Jim produced G. Love’s sophomore set, Lemonade. (Not surprisingly, one of the more emphatic offerings included here is also titled “Lemonades.”) It also continues a tradition Love has maintained over the course of his career, both on his own and with his longtime band Special Sauce—that is, constant collaborations with other like-minded artists, from the Avett Brothers and Jack Johnson to Zap Mama.

The host of contributors here includes breakout blues artist Christone “Kingfish” Ingram and seminal stalwarts R.L. Boyce and Alvin Youngblood Hart, along with rappers Schoolly D, Freddie Foxx, and Speech, the latter being from the band Arrested Development. Their contributions result in a seemingly spontaneous affair, and a sound that’s upbeat and infectious, whether it’s found in the bluesy designs of “My Ball,” “If My Mind Don’t Change,” “Kickin’” and “Guitar Man” or the sassy and spunky sound of “Kickin’,” a track that recalls Prince in his prime. 

While much of the album leans on rap music to convey its messaging, there are also obvious infusions of fully-fueled funk and Delta tradition infused in the proceedings, with G. Love’s harmonica playing adding an essential element to the mix. The fact that the material was fermented in a studio setting reflects the easy, breezy sound found throughout, with “Laughing in the Sunshine” and the descriptively titled “Shouts Out,” serving as especially effusive examples of the generally upbeat attitude that defines the album overall. So too, “The Philly Sound” with its spoken narrative, bottleneck guitar, and relentless rhythm offers homage to Love’s Philly roots. 

With that, the continuum between Philadelphia and Mississippi becomes absolutely incisive. 

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