288

JJ Grey & Mofro: Country Ghetto

Chris M. Slawecki By

Sign in to view read count
JJ Grey & Mofro: Country Ghetto It's rather promising for a band's debut to remind you of the Faces on the fast numbers and of Otis Redding on the slow ones, but these legends provide solid points of reference for JJ Grey & Mofro's Country Ghetto.

Country Ghetto is swampy, funky, bluesy, and above all genuine, straight from JJ Grey's backwoods home in the swamps outside Jacksonville, Florida. Grey composed and arranged every tune, sings lead, and plays keyboards as well as acoustic, electric and twelve-string guitars. Daryl Hance on guitar and slide guitar, Adam Scone on organ and keyboard bass, and George Sluppick on drums help Grey cook, stir, and boil up this scalding pot of country boogie as MOFRO, named in honor of a lumber company for whom Grey once worked.

Here's where Grey comes from: "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," Grey reflects in the liner notes. "My culture, my life, my love is here in this country ghetto."

Country Ghetto's title track thumps up from under that poverty line to chase the ghost of Tony Joe White's classic "Polk Salad Annie," slide guitar and harmonica howling in the background like an approaching twister. Grey's vocal in the deliberate two-step stomp "Tragic" is gnarled and strong and deep, like the roots of a hundreds-year-old cypress tree. "Mississippi" pulls in the sound of southern Stax Records soul, with its organ groove and horn blasts shining like Booker T. & The MGs and the Memphis Horns, and the dual guitars channeling the legendary Steve Cropper. "Good things are going on, here in Mississippi," indeed.

"Circles" is a slow-burning blues about how what comes around goes around, though not always in the way that you might think. Grey delivers lines like, "Please forgive me for what some other man did to you before I came along," with resignation and power that sounds authentically full of hurt.

Finally, "Footsteps" busting into "Turpentine" is not only the best thing on this record, which is really saying something, it's probably the best combined five minutes of southern rock boogie that I've heard since...well, probably ever. Drums slam out its fat 4/4 beat straight and true as organ and harmonica howl and moan and slide guitar screams out the electric agony and ecstasy, the rough-hewn and sweating-booze sound, of the blues.

Put it all together, and it's how Creedence Clearwater Revival might have sounded had they come along after grunge instead of before: Hand-stitched, unpretentious, honest blues. It's as simple—and simply awesome—as the beauty in Grey's opening lines to "Mississippi": "Well, I dearly love my home/But it's never looked so good to me/Blue skies and dragon flies/Muddy creek, Lord, set me free..."


Track Listing: War; Circles; Country Ghetto; Tragic; By My Side; On Palastine; Footsteps; Turpentine; A Woman; Mississippi; The Sun is Shining Down; Goodbye.

Personnel: JJ Grey: vocals, keyboards, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, twelve string guitar, harmonica, bass; Daryl Hance: guitar, slide guitar; Adam Scone: organ, organ bass; George Sluppick: drums; Ian Hendrickson-Smith: baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone; Cochemea Gastleum: tenor saxophone; Dave Guy: trumpet; Batya MacAdam-Somer: violin; David Medine: violin; Hayley Neher: viola; Jessie Marino: cello.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Alligator Records | Style: Blues


Shop

More Articles

Read Akua's Dance CD/LP/Track Review Akua's Dance
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Daylight Ghosts CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Live at PafA CD/LP/Track Review Live at PafA
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Ocean of Storms CD/LP/Track Review Ocean of Storms
by Troy Dostert
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Transparent Water CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Billows Of Blue CD/LP/Track Review Billows Of Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 20, 2017
Read "Saturday Songs" CD/LP/Track Review Saturday Songs
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: August 5, 2016
Read "Christmastime in New Orleans" CD/LP/Track Review Christmastime in New Orleans
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: December 11, 2016
Read "Jailhouse Doc With Holes In Her Socks" CD/LP/Track Review Jailhouse Doc With Holes In Her Socks
by Jerome Wilson
Published: September 24, 2016
Read "Everything's Gonna Be Great" CD/LP/Track Review Everything's Gonna Be Great
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 17, 2016
Read "Closer Than Before" CD/LP/Track Review Closer Than Before
by Mark Sullivan
Published: October 14, 2016
Read "Expansions  Live" CD/LP/Track Review Expansions Live
by Budd Kopman
Published: October 23, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!