J.J. Grey and Mofro

J.J. Grey and Mofro
Orange Blossoms

Alligator Records

By Rachel Lee
April 2009

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Orange Blossoms is the latest from J.J. Grey, a Jacksonville singer songwriter and proponent of the self-dubbed style called “Front Porch Soul.” The 2007 release recorded in Florida with his band Mofro is his fourth major release and his second on Alligator Records.

With a hummingbird on the cover, I wasnít sure if this was going to be your typical blues recording. When I opened up the liner notes and saw the sitar credit, I knew for sure that it wasnít. What I found was an amalgamation of R&B and southern styles, which effortlessly jumps from one time and place to another. Grey lists Tony Joe White, Otis Redding, Dr John and Sly and the Family Stone among his influences. The great thing about the album is that each song takes you in a different direction musically.

The title track and first song “Orange Blossoms” is about a forbidden young love, and combines pop horns over a heavy riff.

Grey reaches deep into his esophagus to pull out a voice as gravelly as Alex Chilton circa the Box Tops. On “The Devil You Know,” where he gripes about a mťnage a trois, you can hear the guitarís twanging country style.

Next comes the naughty “Everything Bad is Good.” A strong Hammond organ and gospel vocals give a spiritual feel to this song about cheating. Itís the only cover on the recording. Next is the standout “She Donít Know.” This song is reminiscent of so many 70s Philly soul classics and when I hear what seems to be a vintage Fender Rhodes and strings section I can swear Iíve heard this song from my childhood.

While listening to “The Higher You Climb,” a ghetto-inspired number and “WYLF(what youíre looking for,)” I hear the wah-wah pedal coming in and out, and I sit back and relax and pretend Iím hearing the soundtrack to a long-lost blaxploitation movie. On the swampy number “Sheís on Fire,” Iím reminded of Jerry Reedís “When Youíre Hot Youíre Hot.” Add to that a little James Brown-style horn section and what you have is the funkiest number on the record. “Move it on” is another standout and the most soulful song on the whole disc. The pathos reminds me of Warís “Slipping into Darkness.”

Iím not sure if “Ybor City” is a real place or not. But like Wilber Harrisonís “Kansas City,” itís overflowing with booze and women who will “treat you like a king.”

“I Believe” is the happy ending song no self-respecting Hollywood movie should be without.

And though Iíve come to the end and Iím still scratching my head to figure out which song had that sitar, it doesnít matter: Iím glad where I got to go.

www.mofro.net

www.alligator.com

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