By James J. Spina

The song is going to be called “No Regrets.” It was written by Garrett Dutton (aka G. of G. Love and Special Sauce.) It’s not out yet. That’s right. You’re SEEING it here for the first time ever. You’ll hear it soon on a new G. Love CD (or iTunes download or whatever the heck you do to get your music these days).

Here it goes:
And now I know why momma looked at me and shed a tear
Life’s bittersweet
Sometimes it’s hard to bare
Such love such pain such heartache
And despair such triumph such joy and all the times we share
Yeah looking back with 20/20
I wouldn’t change a thing
Cause every step I’ve ever taken led me right here

These soon-to-be-sung lyrics came in the very last seconds of a chat with Garrett, a one-on-one 20/20 jumped on once we learned Kaenon Polarized was working up a nifty sunwear collaboration with G. Love tied in to a new collection celebrating Kaenon’s 10th anniversary.
Feeling a disconnect? Sport sunglasses…  a unique musician… a sun style bearing features deemed view-able by a music personality with a powerful stage presence. It all makes sense so hang in there. Take a look AND a listen because eyewear has always had a presence in popular music, especially as it relates to American feeds of music with proud positions in our culture.

“My music is about putting a face on deep traditions that came before me… the Beatles’ White album, Dylan, the blues, hip-hop, rap and even country… MY country.” Garrett Dutton has no issues placing himself smack in the middle of a multicolored salad, so to sing, with his place being the sauce that seasons. “A song isn’t just about the words. It’s riffs and licks and rhythms you can hear and rhythms you bring to the sound from your head, all the heads you’ve heard and also the heads of those fans listening to your sound.”

For Garrett that head would include everyone from blues master Robert Johnson to school friends shooting hoops with this young “white” Philly boy bent on breaking all the rules when it came to typecasting what kind of music he was supposed to be dishing out. “Music should be a huge geography lesson with no boundaries. It’s about the Mississippi Delta draining right to Pontiac, Michigan. It’s as big as Jack White but as wanderin’ as a song like ‘Travelin’ Riverside Blues’ and strapping on a harp after hearing the Beastie Boys and realizing it’s not about black music or white music or blue music. It’s about music.”

With a decidedly varied-yet-focused career careening back nearly 20 years, Garrett shuffles the creativity between extensive touring (100 to 150 gigs a year) and a growing catalog of recordings reflecting his eclectic take on music. His latest, Fixin’ to Die on Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records and produced by The Avett Brothers, blasts through a deepening affinity for blues roots music all filtered into and through his own unique patterns of both original and interpretive song possession. That comes as no surprise to this scribe. On a CD he produced by the legendary John Hammond in 2007 (Push Comes to Shove) the highlight song for me was G. Love’s “Butter” which easily channels original stomping sounds blending the swagger of Robert Pete Williams and the churning charm of The Young Rascals in a lusty dirge built on fondness for food and bubbly beverages. THAT’s special Sauce.

And what, pray tell, qualifies this “Love” dude slinging his take on sunglasses via a collaboration with Kaenon, especially in these sometimes oppressive times of cautious, corporate marketing and branding stomping the life out of genuine product originality? Plenty.

“I challenge anyone saying they aren’t sunglass fanatics these days,” Garrett taunts. “I’ve been digging shades forever. You can’t find a picture of one of my main muses, Lightning Hopkins, without his facing fantastic frames. It was part of his look. His mystery. His mastery. That’s the vibe I want to hit on stage and just about all the time when it comes to facing my day, my audience and myself.”

Further proof is delivered on modern, social networking observation. “If you follow my tweets on @glove you’ll see that I’m into running, fly fishing, surfing and skiing so there’s that whole side of sunwear for me as well. That’s how I originally hooked up with Darren and Steve [Rosenberg] at Kaenon. It wasn’t some artificial licensing deal. It’s a real connection on something I love. I loved the original Kaenons they laid on me and then they gave me the chance to come up with the Special Sauce color for the Burnet.”

And the partnership isn’t stopping there. Garrett plans to push for further creative input, noting too that fans have immediately noticed the unique sunglass style he wears. The tortoise/matte black coloring on the frame bears a connection to one of G. Love’s favorite acoustic guitars with its warm sunburst of black intensifying to golden honey. That coloration owes its heritage to the look of smaller double-O bodied guitars very popular with early blues travelers. And the guitar connection works equally well with Garrett’s other recent partnership with Eastwood Guitars developing a screaming blue-toned, vintage electric riddled with fascinating knobs and controls. Both the guitar and the sunglasses will bear up well to the high profile exposure of G. Love on tour.

Garrett reinforces his affinity for this sort of cooperation as being far beyond any wane endorsement scenario. “I’m into small batching… customizing, playing to the cult side where the synchronicity controls the quality and that heightened sense of personality and ownership. It works with the shades and the guitar in the same way it works with music. In order to keep it real and keep it raw you really have to make it connect with who you are.

“I hope my music does that. I don’t write a song so it can be worshipped. And I don’t sing something live hoping it gets treated with reverence. I want it to move people. I want them to see what I’m all about. It’s about being authentic. It’s about building an emotion and a feeling people can relate to in a big way. That’s what a song is. That’s what a singer should be and that’s what a great pair of glasses or a guitar should be.”
So there you have it: A special edition sunglass on a musician with some thought-sauce coating the look and style of that frame. A big deal? Perhaps not but perchance that’s the point. Maybe that Kaenon Burnet is the way to go in a small way just as the music of someone of G. Love’s caliber is the perfect temper and tone for today’s more intimate and scaled-to-life’s style. Isn’t it far easier to live with creativity in both product and pop culture attuned to 21st century adaptability? Defy the standard expectations. Go for what moves you and not for some revered legendary game plan from the past. Appreciate the human dedication and just for a moment forget about the multimillion dollar deal. Put some shades on because they feel great for you. That’s not mega-success. That’s personal satisfaction. G. Love makes that his anthem and perhaps THAT is the new easy listen and look… looking back with 20/20. ■