Eagerly passionate and joyful
G. Love & Special Sauce update their laid-back ‘90s groove for 2020 with the refreshing and topical The Juice. The album preserves the nonchalant attitude imbued in their nearly-ramshackle sound while refining it and infusing it with joie de vivre that proves to be a salve for an over-anxious and cynical present.
The record begins with a statement of intent: “No more lies about this; no more lies about that.” G. Love makes explicit what he is responding to on the album’s title track, where he is joined by Marcus King when he sings “bad news on the news every day, it’s enough,” but the song rises above the cycle of frustration with trotting shuffle and lightly twangy guitar. The chorus’s infectiously catchy call-and-response enlivens the song even more as G. Love and a chorus celebrate that “we got the love” and “we are the change.” A lot of protest albums can come off as overly-indulgent and obsessed with their own moral righteousness but such is not the case with The Juice. G. Love is fed up with what he sees and hears around him, but instead the catalog-and-criticize method, G. Love provides an antidote to the frustration.
Even more fun than “The Juice” is G. Love’s comment on breaking out of the cycle of ennui on “Go Crazy,” where he is joined by Keb’ Mo’. The scene is probably familiar to most listeners: “Flipping the channel. Surfing the news…talking heads don’t make no sense.” G. Love’s response is probably equally familiar: “I’m gon’ lose my mind if I don’t go crazy.” The song focuses on breaking out of the cycle and turning it into a reason to “come together now in a sweet celebration” of life and good vibes, and all of this wrapped up with a beat that’ll have you dancing along with it before you even notice and a melody you’ll surely be singing in your head for days.
If one of the problems G. Love is responding to is feeling alienated, then the solution is connection, and “SoulBQue,” featuring Roosevelt Collier offers just that. “Come on into my house,” G. Love invites, where what he’s “serving up don’t need a spoon.” What it does need is a funky bass line, punchy harmonica, and for you to “clap your hands and stomp for your feet and dance around the room.”
G. Love regards love with refreshing tenderness and honesty on “She’s the Rock” and “Diggin’ Roots.” The former looks to a present love that “gets better every day,” told in a succession of cutesy metaphors (“she’s the egg, I’m the frying pan”) that celebrates all the feelings felt in loving love. The latter looks to the future with hope and excitement. Both songs are so earnest in their passion as to avoid slipping into cliché, even with the repetition that “she’s the rock to my roll.”
G. Love doesn’t just preach connection, he demonstrates it on this album. The band is joined by a litany of talented musicians who impart their tastes on the album for a truly collaborative effort. These include Marcus King (“The Juice”), Roosevelt Collier (“SoulBQue”), Keb’ Mo’ (“Go Crazy,” “Shine on Moon” and “Birmingham”), Ron Artis II (“Diggin’ Roots”) and Robert Randolph (“Birmingham”).
The Juice defies genre-categorization. The bluesy-twangy style from earlier albums remains intact, though more refined than before. From a frantic dance track (“Birmingham”) to an easy groove (“SoulBQue”) the album retains characteristic genre-melding and never forgets to lift up the listener. The album’s best tool, however, is that it never takes itself too seriously, so grab some friends, sit back and enjoy this delightful album.