Release Date: Apr 16, 2013
Record label: Alligator Records
Florida blues/soul/funk ringleader JJ Grey has been described as “an American treasure”—okay, I described him that way myself, in my review of his 2011 live album/DVD release Brighter Days, but I’m not his only fan out there. His particular blend of Southern-flavored musical gumbo has earned him an army of devotees nationwide, as I experienced when seeing him perform live in Massachusetts in April. Fronting his band Mofro, a hefty collective of musicians that includes guitars, keyboards, backing vocalists, and a couple of horns, Grey brings a big sound to the stage that never overwhelms the soulfulness of his singing.
Fans of JJ Grey and his ever evolving band Mofro will be delighted that the Florida swamp sage lives by the dictum "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" on This River. If anything, Grey has doubled down on the grittier, funkier aspects of 2010's Georgia Warhorse, and brought the studio closer to the stage to boot. The sound on this record is live, crackling.
JJ Grey is one of the brightest new stars to emerge in American soul/blues in the past decade, and this disc will further cement that reputation. This is the eighth album in 12 years from one hard-working mofo. As with earlier releases, This River is a seamless mix of Southern soul, rock, funk and blues. Grey's ace six-piece band, Mofro, include two horn players, and they add full and funky musical meat to the bones of Grey's well-crafted songs and convincingly soulful vocals.
Spinning This River, Floridian songsmith JJ Grey’s seventh long-player, it’s clear that this is someone whose tunes are reflective of a vast and varied record collection. From the deft, soulful touches of Al Green to the twanging rockabilly of The Band, Grey is evidently indebted to a variety of impressive influences. Somebody Else has all the cool touches of the Reverend at his best, all clipped guitar lines and aching vocals; crank up Standing On The Edge and it’s possible to imagine Robbie Robertson grinding out the opening bars.