G. Love talks Philly roots ahead of City Winery show

G Love & Special sauce
Joe Navas

When singing guitarist and harmonica player Garrett “G. Love” Dutton brings his Special Sauce to City Winery this weekend, the event doesn’t just mark the 30th anniversary of his debut album and its newly-released, digital-only ‘G. Love & Special Sauce (Expanded Edition)’.

The City Winery showcase is a homecoming.

Dutton made his home in Philly before, during and after cooking up his Special Sauce with drummer Jeffrey “The Houseman” Clemens and stand-up bassist James “Jimi Jazz” Prescott and blending their unique, acoustic take on R&B, Delta blues and hip-hop into one mix.

Calling from a New York stop on his 30th anniversary tour, Dutton cheerfully recalled bouncing back-and-forth between Boston and Philly back in the day.

“It was summer, 1992, and I was busking on South Street and 2nd Street off Headhouse Square, rapping and singing,” said Dutton. “I was playing coffee houses like McCan’s Kitchen and the open mics at Samuel Adams’ Brew Pub. When I was up in Skidmore College, the first time I had left the city, I missed it. I missed being downtown. So, I started writing songs about the city, like “Shootin’ Hoops” which about all the basketball courts and “Writing on the Wall” which was about the local graffiti writers.”

As a “kid, rapping and writing and playing acoustic guitar,” Dutton knew that he was something of an anomaly back in 1992, before he went to Boston, found drummer Clemens and became a duo. Dutton did, however, know he was onto something when he saw Square Roots (the name of Questlove’s band before it was The Roots) filming a video for their first single, ‘Pass the Popcorn’ at Headhouse Square.

“It was a real moment; one where live instrumentation and hip hop was becoming a thing. Look, I learned from KRS One, De La Soul, Gang Starr, along with Robert Johnson. It was generational — Soul Coughing and Beck were coming up with their own take on hip hop. The people who came after me were into my record. Now hip hop is the dominant art form. Even country music has some hip hop in it.”

When you consider that his most recent full album was 2022’s ‘Philadelphia Mississippi’, a record that goes full bore into the swamp blues and the sound of Philly’s soul and hip hop, G. Love has continued to own and press the brand of music that he started with.

“With that last album, I feel as if it draws a straight line to the first one that we’re celebrating this year,” said Dutton. “Except for it being this hill-country blues thing, from its songs to its live in-studio recording process, it’s very much like the first album. We actually recorded G. Love & Special Sauce like a blues record – think John Lee Hooker, Bob Dylan or even Led Zeppelin. We all set up in one room together and set out to capture magic.”

G. Love & Special Sauce will play at City Winery on Jan. 26 and 27. For information, visit philadelphonic.com