Coming Back Home for Christmas
4 out of 5 stars
When Philadelphia bred Garrett Dutton’s (aka G. Love) debut arrived without much fanfare in 1994—combining hip-hop, blues, jazz, and pop—it didn’t seem likely that this guy would still be recording 27 years later, let alone with a Christmas album in his future. But most would have thought that about Bob Dylan too. Dutton however, has just released his second holiday collection in four years, and perhaps even more surprisingly, it’s an absolute joy.
G. Love doesn’t get enough credit for merging disparate genres like rap and bluesy roots rock with effortless grace and good humor. It’s those qualities that made Coming Home for Christmas (2017), a terrific if somewhat hastily constructed album, such a pleasant and unexpected surprise. This appropriately, if not terribly imaginatively titled follow-up is just as impressive for many of the same reasons.
The ten tracks capture Love clearly at ease and having fun in the studio with some friends, writing frisky, original, generally upbeat Christmas (and a New Year) compositions. They may not become classics but exude the delight and spirited good times that many associate with this time of year. It’s a stripped-down but not raw affair featuring the same players as the previous se—producer Jon Evens on bass, guitars, and various keyboards along with drummer Matthias Bossi.
Better still, Dutton does it all with a fresh-faced sense of wit. I’m going to light this Christmas joint and pass it around to my friends, he jovially sings in “Christmas Joint” before inviting Santa down for a toke. It’s that sort of amiable good-natured approach that permeates every track.
He blows some serious blues harmonica too, especially on the shuffle of “Happy New Year’s Blues,” nearly giving the legendary Paul Butterfield some competition. And even if the slightly risqué, double entendre lyrics to “Whatchu Want for Christmas”—You know I’ve been a good boy/But I don’t want no children’s toys/Momma knows what daddy wants for Christmas—aren’t what you’ll be singing with the family around the fireplace, they are delivered in such a playful and energetic style you can’t help but grin and join in with the festivities.
Horns punch the opening “let’s party” rap of “Freeze BQ” getting things off to a rollicking start, and the celebration never lets up from there. The closing “So Much Love,” featuring Southern Avenue’s drummer Tikyra Jackson on vocals, brings it home with its positive message married to a shoulder-shimmying melody that works for any time of the year. It caps a thoroughly enjoyable 45 minutes of newly penned music that makes a terrific replacement for all those moldy traditionals we, and likely Dutton, are tired of.
Combine this with G. Love’s previous set for a seasonal treat that goes down easier than spiked egg nog on a chilly night. It might even generate some new fans as Love pushes into his next quarter century of music making.
Photo by Joe Navas / Missing Piece Group