NAME: JJ Grey and Mofro
ALBUM: This River
DATE: 24th June 2013
LABEL: Alligator / Proper Records
FIVE WORD REVIEW: Dirty steamin’ bayou funk blues.
REVIEW: The seventh album from Jacksonville, FL -based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter JJ Grey, ‘This River’ is a mature sound perfect for a hazy summer afternoon. Feisty opener ‘Your Lady, She’s Shady’ sets the pace with a funky bass line, sneering vocals and dance-inducing rhythm, drawing you in like a Louisiana bar, packed to the rafters and dense with sweat. The horn-led ‘Somebody Else’ has a flirtatious vibe with sleek production which could easily divert attention from the dark lyrical content about a man with uncontrollable rage.
Grey’s talents as a songwriter are certainly demonstrated in this album. The bittersweet and contemplative ‘Ballad of Larry Webb’ is a stunning example of how Grey encapsulates a character in few lyrics yet builds a whole story, forcing the listener to wonder about the song’s muse. Another stand-out song on the 10-track release is ‘Write A Letter’. Opening with just limited percussion and guitar, Grey’s soulful voice carries the music into a soaring and emotive climax with full production complete with piano licks, a horn ostinato and an impetuous guitar solo.
Tracks such as the more upbeat ‘Harp and Drums’ are not quite as strong, yet still with its rhythmic groove and harmonica melodies it is an infectious driving tune. Closing number – and eponymous track – ‘This River’ sees JJ Grey and Mofro revert to where their strongest talent lies: beautiful storytelling, desperately pensive lyricism and starkly emotive vocal melodies. “Trying to make sense of the nonsense that I’ve called my life,” Grey murmurs, with all the depth and honesty that comes with experience. This is an album for fans of heady Southern blues; for fans of impulsive funk; for fans of personal reflection and the truth. Simply stunning.