When G. Love started tossing around ideas for his new album, he found himself revisiting his roots as a young blues lover kicking around Philadelphia.
The album, "Fixin' to Die," pays tribute to the raw sound of Delta bluesmen while turning up the volume a bit. The title track, a cover of the Bukka White tune, is recast as a righteous acoustic stomper.
Ditto for the cover of the Paul Simon song, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." It sounds like a stretch, but G. Love settles into a comfortable groove and rides it for most of the album. And the original songs toggle from back-porch, good-time music to more fiery fare. The album was produced by Scott and Seth Avett, the driving forces behind the Avett Brothers.
Saturday, G. Love headlines Artscape. In a way, that's also a return to his roots: Years ago, when G. Love was still trying to make it, he used to play a fair amount in Baltimore — since Philadelphia was so close.
Now he's back, at the top of a bill which also includes R&B singer Fantasia and reggae/hip-hop artist Matisyahu.
Are you pumped for Artscape?
I'm looking forward to getting down to Baltimore and bringing "Fixin' to Die" down there. Baltimore is one of the places where we started out.
When we left Philly, one of our first stops was Baltimore, from The 8x10 to the waterfront down there, to the street fairs and city festivals — and the Recher Theatre. It's always a great time. And I want to give a shout-out to my brother, Kelly Bell.
Want to talk about the new album?
I know everybody says this, but it really is one of my best records. And some people are saying it is my best record ever. It's a real return back to my roots as a Delta blues player and a coffee-shop musician. It's really been a hell of a tour so far.
You worked with the Avett Brothers, right?
I did. I had the pleasure of working with Scott and Seth Avett. They produced my record. We cut the record in about a week and a half, down in Asheville, N.C., at this great old studio called Echo Mountain, which is an old converted church. We went in there, and we really did take it to church. It was really something.
The record was all recorded in an old-time way that matched the performances. Not a lot of bells and whistles — just real stripped-down, honest, good old-fashioned music.
What did the Avett Brothers bring to the table?
They brought something out of me. They helped me get back to a stripped-down sound. We all pushed each other. They work really well together as brothers. It was one of those environments where everyone was really focused and putting in a lot of work. But we still had a good time — a lot of laughs and laid-back moments. It was really one of the best weeks of my life.
I think the best thing they brought out of me was, they helped me achieve great vocal performances, and feel open. When you're in the studio, you want to feel like you can express yourself and really go for it. You want to be able to try our your ideas in a supportive environment.
When you're playing music, it's like you're exposing yourself. You're letting out your inner feelings. That's rock 'n' roll. I can't say enough about working with those guys. They did an excellent job.
If you go
G. Love and Special Sauce perform at 8 p.m. Saturday on the main stage at Artscape, 1400 Cathedral St. Free. Call 410-752-8632 or go to artscape.org.