Review: J.J. Grey and Mofro – Georgia Warhorse

Posted on: Sunday, Oct 10, 2010

J.J. Grey and Mofro

“Georgia Warhorse”

(Alligator Records – AL4938)

Here’s Florida multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and vocalist J. J. Grey with another slab of southern-fried, greasy, funky, back porch soul.

Released on Alligator Records, “Georgia Warhorse” offers nothing different to other J.J. Grey and Mofro releases but why change a good thing – Grey’s releases are always worth the price of admission and they always inspire.

Florida born, J.J. Grey is an extremely fine vocalist and talented instrumentalist playing various guitars, various keyboards and harmonica.

“King Hummingbird” starts with sparse acoustic guitars then builds beautifully, adding drums, bass and more guitars with the vocals rising to a crescendo with Grey preaching “I feel you”.

The standout song for me is the classic bluesy, hip hop soul of the title track “Georgia Warhorse” with lovely acoustic guitar leading a dirty electric slide hook.  Grey’s harmonica is only functional but adds some atmosphere.  When he likens himself to a Georgia Warhorse (a tough southern grasshopper) and says that he “Ain’t easy to kill”, I believe him.

Greys is joined on vocals by reggae legend Toots Hibbert on “The Sweetest Thing”, top class black vocals joining top class white vocals on some Stax flavoured soul featuring lush horns from the top notch band.  This one available as a free MP3 download from the band website.

“Gotta know” is a gospel belter with a piano-led church-flavoured start  leading to a classic Mofro build and impassioned sax solo to play out, Grey wants to know how the universe works but finally realises that God can’t be understood.

“Slow, hot and sweaty” is a funky number lead by an electric piano hook, despite writing this review on a traditional cold English Autumnal day one can sense the humidity of the southern swamp lands. Grey calls for the groove to be broken down to feature a 60s Blue Note style trumpet break from Dennis Marion.

“Georgia Warhorse” finishes with the bluesy “Lullaby” with Grey asking if he can rock his child to sleep and protect her – this song featuring  note perfect, beautiful slide guitar by fellow Florida native Derek Trucks.

Like previous releases “Georgia Warhorse” is impossible to categorise: soul, blues, funk, southern rock all feature. one thing is constant the fabulous vocals of JJ grey falling perfecty between rasping rock ‘n’ roll and smooth as silk soul.  To my ears, he is one of the finest white vocalists currently making records and “Georgia Warhorse” gets better and better every listen.  I wish that more performers had Grey’s touch for space, dynamics and groove.

“I always heard them called Georgia Warhorses but never with any love. They always had my respect for their tenacity, strength and extreme toughness. Stomping on one was like stomping on a Tonka toy. Folks thought that they was gone for good but they’re still there lurking in the background, watching and waiting. Listening out for the voice of all that is to say, ‘Wake up little brother! Fly up and cover the sky like night once more!’” -– JJ


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