G. LOVE & SPECIAL SAUCE : : THE HUSTLE (UNIVERSAL)

Gotta give it up for G. Love. He's been hustling his brand of folk/hip-hop/psychedelic soul/country/surf ditties for quite a few years now. Along the way, he's helped Jack Johnson (who played on his Philadelphonic album) launch a multi-platinum career. His sound may not be totally original (Beck may have beat him to the punch) but it's certainly distinct, and while he may not have the silky crooner's throat that gets radio play, he's definitely got soul and it shines in every tune.

G. Love's latest release The Hustle (Universal Records), produced by Mario Caldato Jr. (remember the Beastie Boys' Check Your Head?), has a decidedly unpolished production quality, like it was recorded on someone's front porch on a late summer evening. Its blend of musical styles means that each song gives you a little taste of something different. G. raps every song with confidence but a few lyrics come off a little sophomoric ("Love," "Booty Call," "Fishing Song"), even if they still make good party songs.

The groovy beats from a stripped down Special Sauce backing band are consistent through the album. But not until the album's end does it show some maturity. "Two Birds'" simple, mellow, bossanova beat is a nice contrast amidst the funk. "Stone Me" is a slow, woozy rap that effectively captures the feeling of intoxication. G. plays solo guitar and harmonica on the traditional album-ending love song, "Sunshine" that's the polar opposite of the rocking album opener of "Astronaut."

Like his last several albums, G. Love sticks with his strength and gets your head nodding with a unique groove. The lyrical work of the songs/raps still tend to dwell on superficial love and having fun, and they rarely delve deeper. The real message lies in the soul shining through G. Love's delivery. Longtime fans won't be disappointed, but if you haven't heard G. Love before, check out Electric Mile first.

Haig Assadourian
JamBase | Worldwide
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[Published on: 11/3/04]

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