Garrett Dutton started playing the guitar at the age of eight. He wrote his first song in the ninth grade and started wearing the harmonica rack like one of his heroes, Bob Dylan. It was on the streets of Philadelphia, that he worked on his craft, playing the blues and folk music like Dylan and John Hammond, Jr.
Those same streets introduced him to the sounds of Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys and Schoolly D. He would go on to create his own voice, combining the musical styles and co-forming G. Love and Special Sauce. The duo had some success, but would flash out as their label dropped them and moved on.
Enter Jack Johnson in 2004. Dutton had featured the young surfer/singer on his 1999 album Philadelphonic. Johnson had come back to return the favor by signing him to his label Brushfire Records. Love and Sauce continued to work together, but it was a solo career that G. Love was destined for. Even more so, was the need to find his way back to his roots.
It was a chance meeting that started him down that path. The kind of meeting you hear about in those tell-all books and see on the rock documentaries. G. Love was involved in a jam session on a tour bus with a young band that was taking the “Americana world” by storm at a summer music festival.
Later that fall, he actually heard their music for the first time at a show in Boston. He knew he had to ask Scott and Seth Avett to play on his new solo album, and produce it as well. The goal was to go back to the beginning and find the music he fell in love with while playing the streets of Philly. ‘Fixin’ To Die’ is the result: a collection of old traditional tunes, one cover, and a few songs that had been in his head for years.
For most, this is a departure from the G. Love we all knew. Gone are the hip-hop elements, replaced by raw emotion and pure honesty. With ‘Fixin’ To Die’, Love and the Avetts don’t just pay homage to the past, they embrace it like a long lost loved one that had just come home. According to Scott Avett, it was always there though; “There’s a little bit of this record on all the previous G. Love records, you just had to look for it. This is the record we all knew he should make and he could make, but again, he had to open himself to the core to make it. That’s the difference.”
G. Love admits that his fourth Brushfire release is different than the rest in more ways than one. “It always feels like crunch time in the studio but it never felt like that with these guys. It was a team thing, no drama, no agenda. It was a tremendously positive and encouraging experience. This is the most inspired I’ve ever felt making a record – let’s just put it that way.”
The Avetts took Love to their own Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, North Carolina. What ensued was pure music magic. From the first drumbeat and floorboard stomp of Bukka White’s “Fixin’ To Die,” the listener is taken on a journey to our musical roots. Love had been playing this tune ever since he covered Dylan’s version in coffee houses and on the street as a kid.
Love has said his favorite tune on the album is “You’ve Got To Die,” where each of the three sing a verse. “Get Goin” could start a fire with that greasy blues guitar riff. The cover of “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” has new-found life with this version. One of the best songs on the album though, is one that wasn’t supposed to be on it.
Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” was only intended to be a demo. On the last night of recording, he asked the brothers to record it. “We put it down real nice with a banjo, two guitars, and a cello over dub to finish out the album.” So simple and yet, close to perfect.
Fixin’ To Die is proof that all of Garrett Dutton’s hard work on the streets of Philly have not gone in vain. G. Love has found a home in the blues/Americana world should he choose to move in. The welcome mat is laid out my friend. Just walk on in.
Written by Victor Alfieri