JJ Grey & Mofro are a down-home country band based out of Jacksonville. With two albums already under their belt, the group has recently released their latest collection of funky, backporch country tunes “Country Ghetto.” It’s out on Alligator Records.
Whereas say Kid Rock strains to convince his audience that his is in fact from a trailer park (and everyone knows this is essentially B.S.), there is no posteuring in the music of JJ Grey & Mofro. “Country Ghetto” is a dirty, imperfect, sweaty little gem of an album. A record that begs to be played on vinyl and not digitally. Because in a music world where albums seem too perfect for their own good this collection is anything but. JJ Grey’s voice is a self-assured, gravely instrument capable of conveying fragility, doubt, reverence and beauty. It deserves to be heard live or at the very least with all the pops and hisses vinyl would allow.
JJ Grey & Mofro are the epitome of a band that you stumble across in a dilapidated roadhouse. A band who plays their ass off leaving the drunken patrons crying or their jaws scraped across the floors. Tourist would wonder how come this amazing little band is playing in front of 50 people in a backwoods swamp bar. For make no mistake about it, this album is just shy of face-melting good. It deserves to be heard by those who love soul drenched hymns, funked out basslines and the porch rocking every day stories of Southern gothic struggles.
More than anything the sound of this album is larger, with horns and female backing vocals, than previous efforts. From the propulsive opening track, “War” (it’s about the mental inner struggle and not the one in the Middle East), to the slinky homage of “Mississippi” and the gospel tinged sadness of “The Sun is Shining Down” there is much to exhalt and little to complain about.
As Grey says in the liner notes to the album:
I grew up when the ?root hog or die? days were still fresh in the minds of my parents and grandparents. I was brought up to earn it and not waste it, to respect and protect womanhood and promote manhood, and to be thankful for what you got. By today’s standard we ourselves, and most of the folks we knew, lived below the so-called ?poverty line?. We were land and culture rich and dollar poor but I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for any other. I’ve always felt blessed to be raised here, to know so many larger than life characters, and to steep in the years of blood, sweat and the grim determination of my people before me. My culture, life and love is here in this country ghetto.
For fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd, CCR, and those old-time R&B albums from Sam Cooke or Otis Redding would be happy to discover the music of JJ Grey & Mofro.