G. Love / G. Love & Special Sauce

The Juice

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Now that they're over a quarter-century into their career, it's time to come to terms with a simple fact: G. Love & Special Sauce are no longer youthful upstarts, they're veterans. Fittingly, their 2020 album The Juice is the kind of record that could only be made by musicians who've been around the block a time or two. It's not that The Juice is the work of untrammeled virtuosos -- it is most decidedly a vibe record -- but rather that it's an album that's casually confident that also happens to have an offhand sense of community. At its core, The Juice derives from a series of Nashville sessions held with Keb' Mo', who is credited as a co-producer and appears on a fair chunk of the album. The bluesman helps focus G. Love, tightening up individual songs which in turn helps the entire album gel. G. Love still has plenty of moments where he indulges in a bit of goofball humor, but his party is inclusive and good-spirited, filled with plenty of exhortations for peace and love. His openheartedness is accentuated by guest appearances by fellow blues musicians: six-string hotshot Marcus King plays on the title track, Robert Randolph cranks up the funk on "Birmingham," Ron Artis helps "Diggin' Roots" achieve a relaxed sunniness, while Roosevelt Collier rides out the vamp on "Soul-B-Que." It all adds up to an album that is cheerful and, thanks to the steady hand of Keb' Mo', deceptively sharp. Anything that seems ragged or a loose end is there for flavor, giving this record a relaxed, cheerful groove so offhand, it could only be conjured by old hands.

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