JJ Grey & Mofro - This River
A quick look at the Wikipedia page for JJ Grey & Mofro tells us they’re not your usual band, with genres listed as soul, funk, r’n’b, blues and southern rock, and even that doesn’t really tell the whole story. Florida based frontman JJ Grey writes all the tracks on album seven, This River, as well as demonstrating his skills on the guitar and harmonica - and he sings as if his life depends on it. The rest of the band are just as dexterous on their instruments, with horns prominent throughout and an organ making an appearance, all alongside the usual staples of guitar (electric, bass, acoustic, slide etc.) and drums. This River mixes smooth Motown with blues-funk, a sprinkle of rabble rousing Southern rock and some Americana balladry, meaning the breadth of classic American music is well represented. Grey and team kick off with ‘Your Lady, She’s Shady’, a blues-funk rocker in the style of the Spin Doctors, and head to a close on a similar note with the screaming blues-funk of ‘Harp And Drums’. In between, the trumpet heavy ‘Somebody Else’, classic 60’s sounding ‘Tame A Wild One’ and rocking ‘Standing On The Edge’ bring Motown into the fold while ‘99 Shades of Crazy’ roughs it up some, Grey adding an edge of attitude to his previously smooth voice. With its sweaty sexy feel and high pitched vocal chorus, ‘Florabama’ is very Prince, back when he was all about the funk, and the two best tracks on the album are also the slowest: the pure Americana of ‘The Ballad Of Larry Webb’ and the gospel tinged ‘This River’ driven by Grey’s emotive delivery. This River is a throwback to a simpler time, its tunes steeped in the history of American rock and blues.