By Jacob Katel
By Laurie Charles
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Abel Folgar
By Kat Bein
By Jacob Katel
Ever since the Hooters blew their major-label wad in 1985, their being dubbed Philadelphia's next Great White Hope has been the kiss of death (R.I.P. Tommy Conwell and the Young Rumblers). The fact is, white artists remain a musical underclass in Philadelphia, commanding far less attention from outsiders than the sounds of its inner city, which have ranged from the history-making Philly soul of the Sixties to present-day contributions from rough-hewn hip-hoppers the Roots and super-slick R&B chart hogs Boyz II Men.
But if any pale-faced Philly native seems equipped to reverse that trend, it's multifaceted hep cat Garrett Dutton, better known as G. Love. He may be a product of the city's posh Society Hill district, but judging by his recorded output, he'd have been just as happy living on the streets. G. Love is making all the right moves to bridge his hometown scene's racial chasm, and the dizzyingly mottled Yeah, It's That Easy is another significant section in that span of brotherhood.
The twentysomething G. Love is a veritable rap-happy Vegematic, and like any youngster, he's hard at work fashioning his own sense of self, musically and otherwise. Yeah, It's That Easy -- Love's third go-around in the studio with his nimble back-up duo Special Sauce -- sucks up choice bits of Love's most cherished moments in the history of jazz, soul, R&B, and acoustic blues and squeezes out a refreshingly oblivious, rhythmically demanding extract designed to melt color barriers. Call it jigsaw-puzzle folk music for a new, multiculturally aware generation.
Yeah is front-loaded with stellar sounds. The leadoff "Stepping Stones" dodges effortlessly between authoritative spoken verses, harmony-drenched choruses, and a winking "neh-na-na" bridge that connotes Sixties psychedelia. "I-76," a tribute to the much maligned high-speed deathtrap that connects Philadelphia to its western suburbs, is an old school, rap-lite throwdown that achieves the sort of definable sense of place that DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were never quite able to pull off. "You Shall See" takes Love's recently acquired affection for Piedmont-style blues pickers to its logical conclusion, while the swaggering title track sermonizes about his town's various racial and economic quagmires without talking down to anyone.
There are times when Yeah, It's That Easy comes across a touch watered-down in its attempt to cover all the stylistic bases, as on the rambling "Pull the Wool," in which Special Sauce's dodgy syncopation and G.'s lethargic rapping are in danger of nodding off into the droopy-eyed, too-cool abyss. But even the more clumsily executed material is drunk with the rush of discovery. Succeed or not, G. Love is willing to try just about anything.
Our nation's classical music critics have gone after this disc like a great white shark at a blood drive, which makes perfect sense: McCartney, who reportedly spent four years completing the piece, cheerfully admits he can't read music and acknowledges having received a great deal of help in arranging and structuring the score from composers David Matthews and John Harle, among others. Still, Paulie's dilettantism, which consumers have rewarded by pushing Standing Stone to the top of the classical charts, wouldn't be worth reviling if the platter exhibited the energy and cleverness of his best work. It does not: McCartney's 75-minute fantasia about Celtic man musing on (his words) "the origins of life and the mystery of human existence" is a shallow, bland muddle that makes John Williams seem like Johann Sebastian Bach. Dull? You'd have to include several Broadway show tunes to make it interesting enough to be considered dull. But don't take my word for it. Go ahead and buy the damn thing, listen to it once, then forget about it for the rest of your life.
-- Michael Roberts