Review: JJ Grey And Mofro – Brighter Days

Posted on: Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012


JJ Grey And Mofro – Brighter Days

(Alligator Records: ALCD 4944)

JJ Grey’s first ever live DVD/CD two-disc set has been out for a little while now, but it would be criminal to overlook it . . . capturing him and Mofro live, in full flight at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, Georgia on 22nd January last year, with the film also showing him at  home in the beautful area of North Florida, which is the inspiration for much of his music, and also fascinating interviews with the likes of Alligator Records boss Bruce Iglauer,  musician Derek Trucks, band members and Grey himself.

The audio album is produced by Grey, with the film being directed by Spookie Daly, whose work has aired on MTV Networks, Fuse and more. The 12-tracks on the album weigh in at nearly 80 minutes, with three extra performances on the DVD. JJ Grey is very much the ‘real deal’, his magnificent voice reminiscent of the great Southern soul singers, and he is no slouch on guitar and harmonica . . . the Mofro sound being a melting pot of all-things from the South . . . swampy rock, soul, country, blues, funk and more!

The band, apart from Grey, comprise: Andrew Trupe (lap steel and electric guitar), Todd Smallie (bass), Anthony Cole (drums), Anthony Farrell (organ and piano), Dennis Marion (trumpet) and Art Edmaiston (baritone and tenor saxophone) – and what a superb outfit they are, the perfect unit to flesh out Grey’s emotive songs. This is JJ Grey & Mofro’s fourth outing for Alligator,  but it’s good to hear the songs from the previous albums in the live setting, with the enthusiastic Atlanta crowd in full cry.

Personal favourites are the opening title cut from “Country Ghetto”, a funky, swampy blues with Grey featured on harmonica and tough, gritty vocal; a lovely and lengthy “Brighter Days”, which at eight minutes never overstays its welcome, and also the fierce, rocking “War”, with some fine guitar from Andrew Trube. The gorgeous “Lochloosa”, about his home area has a lovely spoken intro from Grey which takes everyone there, and thanks to the film we are all able to see how beautiful it is!

The band get funky again on the ‘lowdown and dirty’ “Dirtfloorcracker” – the only co-write here, penned by Grey and former long-time guitarist Daryl Hance – carried by the magic of Mofro and Grey’s vocal. Other treats are Grey’s ode to his baby girl, “The Sweetest Thing” and the poignant “The Sun Is Shining Down”, the song described most movingly in the film by JJ Grey. The audio album ends on a high note with the strutting, high-energy “On Fire”.

A fantastic package from Alligator from one of roots music’s finest performers and writers in JJ Grey, and of course, the very talented Mofro . . . . highly recommended to all!


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