JJ Grey & Mofro / Mofro


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This collection of "front porch soul and jookhouse funk" is very tasty, and not just because the band celebrates ham hocks and other Southern delicacies on "Ho Cake." In an era when people overdub and compress the soul right out of recorded music, producer/engineer Dan Prothero has managed to capture an organic, earthy sound that perfectly suits this band's sultry swamp funk grooves. This is particularly appropriate since singer/songwriter John "JJ" Grey seems to be a big fan of old-timey authenticity. His lyrics decry overdevelopment and the homogenization of American culture; he romanticizes the early days of his home state before "skyscrapers and superhighways [were] carved through the heart of Florida," while his band celebrates the American musical heritage of Muddy Waters, early Bootsy Collins, and other funk, blues, soul, and rock practitioners. Granted, some listeners might not share Grey's simpleminded enthusiasm for a time with "no car, phone, or electric light"; after all, there weren't any funk or soul records back then, and contrary to what Grey says, there was plenty of strife in the good old days. Also, Grey's Luddite tendencies didn't prevent his band from releasing an enhanced CD-ROM with bonus audio tracks, full screen video, an interactive mixer, and a virtual reality studio tour. Nonetheless, the music is exactly what you'd want from this type of project: firmly rooted in tradition but still sounding fresh and spontaneous. Grey's vocals find the right mixture of smoothness and grit, his harmonica playing on "Blackwater" suggests an otherworldly spirit haunting the Florida swamps, and while he doesn't have the distinctive off-center sensibility of the late Lowell George, for example, he does have a sense of humor; he even tells an amusing short story about dumb criminals on "Cracka Break." Of course, Daryl Hance, Fabrice "Fabgrease" Quentin, Nathan Shepherd and George Sluppick are all a crucial part of Mofro's sound, and label-mate Robert Walters also contributes to the album by playing clavinet on "Ho Cake" and "Santa Claus" and an electric piano solo on "Lazy Fo Acre." Some of the laid-back funk workouts may seem a little long to those who prefer tight song structures to a jam band sensibility, but Mofro delivers a solid album overall.

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