THE COX CAPITOL THEATRE presents…
JJ GREY & MOFRO
with opening act Whitey Morgan and the 78’s
Doors at 7 p.m. / Show at 8 p.m.
Admission is $15 Advance/$17 Day of Show
Growing up in the swamplands of northern Florida, down home roots, rock and soul artist JJ Grey became a realist early on. “You fall in love with a pig,” he says, “and then one day your granddad knocks it in the head and bleeds it for butchering. You tend to grow up with a certain amount of realism in your life.”
JJ Grey and his band Mofro exude rocking, funky, melodic, front porch realism in every song they play. Grey comes from a long tradition of Southern storytellers, and his songs oftentimes use the loss of his natural surroundings and the marginalization of the Southern culture he grew up in as a metaphor for universal truths. The band delivers his material with brilliant musicianship, resulting in music that is thought provoking rhythmically dynamic and texturally mesmerizing.
JJ Grey & Mofro’s Alligator debut, COUNTRY GHETTO (produced by Dan Prothero) features 12 original JJ Grey compositions that come right out of the Southern musical and literary tradition. Grey’s ear for detail inhabits his songs, whether it is a story passed down to him from his grandmother or the tribulations of a childhood friend. His voice delivers them with an unflinching strength that makes the personal universal and paints a vivid portrait of an exact time or place with words and music. Like his songs, his rich, soulful vocals are forceful and commanding, seemingly old beyond his years. And the music, from smoldering soul ballads to gospel-fried funk to straight ahead rock ‘n’ roll, brings it all home with danceable grooves and a melodic freshness that will stay with you long after the album ends.
Grey’s songwriting influences are widespread. “I listen to people who tell the story,” he says, naming Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, R.L. Burnside, Tony Joe White, Jerry Reed, Otis Redding, Dr. John, Sly & The Family Stone, Van Morrison, Bill Withers and Dan Penn. What these writers and performers have in common is a love for simplicity, evoking complex emotions with a minimal amount of words. As a performer, Grey is influenced by the sexually charged blues of Howlin’ Wolf, the country soul of George Jones and the hard funk of James Brown, as well as local personalities like street preachers and old time radio DJs.
From the beginning, Grey’s songs have been connected to his ancestral Florida homestead 40 miles outside of Jacksonville, a landscape he writes about with passion and devotion. Back in 1986, Grey worked at an air conditioning company, where he befriended guitarist Daryl Hance. At the time Grey had a young original band that needed a guitar player so he gave Hance the call. Grey was immediately impressed with Daryl’s minimalist approach. “Daryl plays like Curtis Mayfield or Peter Tosh. He plays like the older generation, with patience.” Under the name of Mofro (Grey’s nod towards a lumberyard he worked at), they recorded a demo together, which drew the interest of a UK label. The two then flew to London in 1994 to record.
While in London, the deal collapsed. Deciding to stick it out for a while, Grey placed ads in Melody Maker for musicians and quickly put together a band to play in the local London music scene. They were courted by a number of record labels, but were not at all impressed by the seemingly false and unrealistic promises being offered. On his own, Grey researched and found Fog City Records, owned by Dan Prothero. The two hit it off instantly. Returning stateside, Fog City — with Prothero producing – recorded and released Blackwater in 2001 (named by Amazon.com as one of the best CDs of the decade) and, on Swampland Records – again with Prothero at the helm — Lochloosa in 2004. JJ Grey & Mofro’s rabid following, through hard work, touring and undeniable musical prowess, grew quickly.
A National Public Radio feature in 2001 brought JJ’s music to more people than ever before. Doors at press, radio and venues opened across the country. JJ Grey & Mofro performed at Bonnaroo, opened for Widespread Panic, Ben Harper, Galactic, B.B. King and Jeff Beck. Word of their live show spread quickly, and bookings at festivals and concerts around the world increased, including jaw-dropping shows at The Austin City Limits Festival and The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. The band continues to tour constantly, and will hit the road hard in support of COUNTRY GHETTO.
From gritty funk to juke joint romps to contemplative country soul to blistering rockers, JJ Grey & Mofro occupy a distinctive space in the music world. And, like the best of the great Southern novelists, JJ Grey fills his stories and songs with details that are at once vivid and personal, political and universal. The songs and the music on COUNTRY GHETTO will make you smell the cypress trees, feel the hot breeze, taste the ho-cakes, and remind you that home is where the heart is.