Fixin' To Die
Throughout his career Garret Dutton, aka, G. Love has played at the shallow end of the pool of roots music. He’s splashed elements of blues and folk into his music from time to time albeit with hip-hop sensibility. Fixin’ To Die is his dive into the deep end of Americana music and who better to team up with than the young Princes of the genre, The Avett Brothers, whom he credits with “bringing this music out of me.” Not that it would have been that difficult to do, being that Dutton has wanted to record a true blues record for 20 years.
Fixin’ To Die is a country blues album full of raw emotion and just as raw production. Seth and Scott Avett, who both produce and play on the release, are masters of minimalist recordings. They moved Dutton and his band to the mountains of North Carolina setting up at Echo Mountain, a converted church in Ashville. Dutton points out that most of these songs were written at turning points in his life, including several love songs for his fiancé. The combination of emotionally charged songs and the setting helped produce an album that features a more reflective performance from Dutton than we’ve heard to this point.
Dutton kicks of the release with the title track, a cover of Bukka White’s oft cover “Fixin’ To Die,” a tale of mortality with a focus on how death affects the surviving family. “The Road” finds G. Love singing in the high lonesome sound that befits a winsome song about missing home and the loved one who remains there. Dutton has pointed out in recent interviews that this album is less hip-hop which he translates as less ego on the part of the singer. These songs are about the people he loves and his responsibility to them. This doesn’t mean that this is a somber record, far from it. Blind Willie McTell’s “You’ve Got To Die” is down right jovial, befitting a back porch party. A cover of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” winds up with a rollicking old time banjo versus harmonica hoe-down. Lou Reed’s “Pale Blue Eyes” also gets a work over with fiddle, banjo, acoustic guitar, stand-up bass, and a minimum of percussion. “Milk & Sugar” is a fun tune is reminiscent of G. Love’s first album but also reflects the Avett’s strong influence with solo banjo and harmonica interludes. “Just Fine” gets closest to the groovy rap-rhythm sound of Love’s more recent releases. It also features straight up electric guitar.
Dutton claims that Fixin’ To Die has opened a new chapter in his career, one that finds him rediscovering his true love of roots music. I suspect we’ll be hearing more splashing from this end of the pool on future G. Love releases.