ith a name like G Love and Special Sauce, you don’t exactly expect folk music. Leaning closer to hip-hop than Beck-like slacker rap, they seem to know what they’re doing, but it’s just not my cup of tea. As sometimes happens, a talented performer reacts to the catalyst of another writer’s music, and something special happens. In the case of G Love’s “Rodeo Clowns” the other writer is Mr. “Brushfire Fairytales”, Jack Johnson.
G Love’s handling of “Rodeo Clowns” is definitely not pure Jack Johnson; his “Flake”, “Mudfootball”, and the other tracks on “Brushfire Fairytale” are closer to blues than modern R&B and its derivatives. This version makes good use of multiple acoustic guitars, including one played by the writer in a solo sounding a lot like Willie Nelson doing his usual fierce attack on every individual note. Just to make sure we don’t forget who’s performing, there’s a huge bass and drum rhythym; not overdone, but not subtle.
Catchy music was never hurt by snappy lyrics. Johnson’s snap. Revealing the often thin line between the ‘losers’ on the street, and the ‘winners’ looking down on them, the song opens with a look at the hedonistic crowd in a disco, poking fun at their shallowness, but the closing verse alters the perspective, contrasting shallowness with hopelessness:
Lights out Shut down Late night Wet ground You walk by, look at him but he can't look at you yeah You might feel pity but he only feels the ground because You understand moods but he only knows let down by the corner there's another one, Reaching out a hand coming from a broken man; well, You try to live but he's done tryin' Not dead, but definitely dying.
No judgments drawn; just a slice-of-life snapshot of two groups which, at times, aren’t so very different.