You can hear the voice of Garrett Dutton — better known as G. Love, and coming to Bend Thursday (see “If you go”) — course with excitement when he talks about the recording session that birthed his new solo album “Fixin’ to Die.”
He uses words like “inspired” and “special” and “unique” and “refreshing” and, a couple times, “awesome.”
Guided by producers Seth and Scott Avett (of the white-hot roots band The Avett Brothers), Dutton spent nine days at Echo Mountain Recording, a studio in a converted church in Asheville, N.C., banging out foot-stompin’ front porch jams that take the whole G. Love thing right back to where it started.
The goal, Dutton said in a telephone interview earlier this week, was to keep G. Love fans engaged by veering away from the urban blues meets hip-hop groove sound that has defined his career, and especially his past three albums, 2004’s “The Hustle,” 2006’s “Lemonade” and 2008’s “Superhero Brother,” all released on Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records label.
“We thought of those last three records as a triumvirate,” he said. “With the economy and the state of the record business and everything like that — it being harder and harder to sell records — it was just like, you know what, we gotta do something really different. So we decided we were gonna go back to my roots as a coffee-shop singer and a Delta bluesman and really ... go all the way with that.”
Enter the Avetts, a couple of North Carolina boys whose new-school old-time string band is at the forefront of the current roots-music revival. Once the G. Love camp decided on the direction of the new record, they set their sights on the ideal producers.
“They do things in such an honest way,” Dutton said. “We felt like (we should) go back to making records how I used to make ’em: real stripped down, live performances, no frills. Just good, old-fashioned, honest music.”
With the Avetts on board, Dutton put his trust in their vision of roots music, and the brothers “guided us to a really unique place,” he said.
“They were such a breath of fresh air. It was the kind of session where you do one song and you’d be like, ‘Man, that was awesome. I don’t know how it can get any better,’” Dutton said. “And then you do the next song and it’s even better. And I would just go home every night and I would be so buzzin’ from the music. I ... just (wanted to) go straight home and go to bed and not, like, get hit by a car ... or anything that could f--- up the vibe we had going. I felt like there was something so precious going on.”
The result is indeed inspired. “Fixin’ to Die” is a collection of rustic, heartfelt tunes that feature plenty of string pickin’, slide guitar, hand claps and only a little of the smirking, marble-mouthed raps that marked much of Dutton’s previous work. There are also covers of the Velvet Underground, Paul Simon and a couple of old blues numbers — including the Bukka White-penned title track — sprinkled among its 13 songs.
Reviews have been generally positive; more than one has called “Fixin’” the best album of Dutton’s career. Which was exactly the reaction he was hoping for.
“We always have to give people a reason to come out,” Dutton said. “We have to put on great shows every night and put out great records so that ... we can keep our people that have been with us for a while captivated and we can turn on some new people.
“I’m just happy on this record to come out and flip the script a little bit and show people another side of me,” he continued. “Maybe it’s a side that they don’t know about me and they’re gonna find out, or maybe it’s a side of me that they know about and they’ve been waiting for.”