JJ Grey gig is a little bit like being at a revivalist meeting except
that while the Florida wordsmith and white boy soul singer delivers all
the passion and fervour you would expect, he does so without any trace
of conceit. A Mofro show is like watching a conceptual notion taking on
a physical entity as the facets of Florida fauna, wildlife, geography,
culture, cuisine and outlook manifests itself beautifully in a series of
grooves and musical ebbs and flows that provided a triumph of feel over
This was an
organic 'feel good' ecstasy party for blues and soul fans. All the
traditional elements of rock, r&b, funk, blues and soul seeped from
every pore of a band for whom the heartfelt outpouring of songs like 'Lochlooser'
transposed the heart of soul from the 60's to 2011.
centre stage in this rich musical canvas was the suitable colourfully
attired yet unassuming wiry, smiling figure of JJ Grey who proved to be
as adept on guitar and harp as he is a stunning white boy soul singer
given to dominating a song with his earthy timbre and spinning colourful
stories that enveloped the room with a collective feel good factor.
And as the
set took shape, the band leant into a succession of mid tempo funky
swampy numbers that smouldered with brooding intent and weighty lyrical
JJ is one
part a soul drenched eco warrior - but without the clichés or
bludgeoning excess - and another part a deep roots rocker for whom the
subtle shifts of tone and pace bring the fullest expression to some
is Mofro a band that glides and grooves its way through some wonderful
musical twists and turns before unveiling outstanding mesmerising
they finally stretched out on a James Brown style workout and gave full
rein to a startling tenor sax solo from Art Edmaiston (the only one of
the night) and its trumpet equivalent from Denis Marion, the crowd
response was that of a mutual tension breaking expiation of breath.
Driving Mofro forward from the rear was the ever smiling groove master,
drummer Anthony Cole whose push and pull tempos shaped the songs
beautifully as he locked in with the mellifluous bass of Todd Smallie.
Mofro has the feel of a band with potential greatness, JJ contented
himself with colouring his lyrics with a beautiful blend of soulful
funky blues that flowed freely from his opening delicate guitar solo to
the funky groove of 'WYLF' on which he and fellow guitarist Andrew Trube
teased out their notes as if writing with a quill.
built up such a formidable dynamic that by the finish of the song an
almost sheepish JJ announced 'My guitar was too loud'. And as if
startled by the moment he started 'Beautiful World' in the wrong key,
announcing 'I've got a low voice, but it isn't that low'. In typical
understated style he launched into a song wracked full of emotion and
almost unnoticed among the whoops and hollers from the crowd, the band
slipped into a big riffed soul number - reminiscent of Sly Stoned meets
The Temptations - that exploded into a broader musical vista.
close to his soul roots on 'A Woman', the closest the band got to a
traditional soul ballad. He slightly altered his vocal attack on the
quite magnificent 'Country Ghetto' embracing a Beefheart meet Wolf growl
and stabbing the words with his index finger in a gesture that
emphasised their poignant meaning; 'Starve to death before you live by a
government handout, they call up poverty, life in a country ghetto'.
'Fireflies' slightly changed the focus of his lyrical concern, if not
the passion with which they were delivered, as the melodic mix of
soulful voice, harp and horns brought JJ to a special moment in which he
bent a couple of notes on his harp.
to stand still momentarily until the spell was broken by the audience
applause. Perhaps only a band as magical as this could then drag the
audience over to the plaintive qualities of 'Lochloosa'.
If the world
needs another protest song this might be the one, as JJ spat out some
evocative lyrics that cleverly contrasted the micro eco environment of
'mosquitoes', 'rattlesnakes' and 'cane breaks' with the macro vacuity of
'golf courses', 'country clubs' and 'gated communities' on a slow
burning anthem that built towards a climactic finish.
There was till time for the 'Hey Joe' influenced 'Hide & Seek' and best
of all 'Sweetest Thing' a smoking groove which was transformed into a
mighty sing-along by a crowd caught in the moment. The band cooked, the
crowd roared them on and JJ's beaming smile was that of an artist who
had just shared a few hours of his time with a room full of new
Earlier the impressive Marcus Bonfanti combined a powerful
baritone voice with strong songs deft playing and a bluesy undertow in a
well received set that made light of the traditional early evening
graveyard shift. He's definitely a talent on the up.