Garage Deluxe/JJ Grey and Mofro
February 1, 2008
The opening act at club shows is often overlooked but Garage Deluxe, local boys from Knoxville, Tennessee on the road opening for JJ Grey and Mofro, had no problem earning the respect of the rather large early crowd and setting the tone for what would be a great evening of music. The band just finished recordin gtheir second album with master David Barbe in his Georgia studio.
They nailed a cover from another of Barbe’s alumni, a monstrous rendition of the Drive-By Truckers’ “Sink Hole,” then revved things up even more with a take on the funky James Brown number “Soul Power.” With the crowd primed and ready they worked thru a few originals like the title track to the new album “Light Energy.” It was a lively number with Stevie Jones rollicking up and down the keys as John Montgomery wore out the guitar from the other side of the stage. “DayLilly” found drummer Andrew Bryant taking over the mic. The overall feeling of the song showed obvious Allman Brothers influences.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Garage Deluxe was the interchangable roles. Jones played guitar as well as keys, and the band shares lead vocal duties. The band was joined by Steve Swertfeger (Old Union) for an enormous jam on the Allman Brothers ‘ “Dreams.” They closed the show with Jones’ “Rolling,” showing the band has a greater range of influence other than Southern rock and roll. The song moved along at a frantic pace, at times sounding eerily similar to The White Stripes.
When JJ Grey and his band of funky Southern gents took the stage of Exit/In, they wasted little time warming up the crowd. The fulltime addition of the Hercules Horn section made up of Art Edmaiston and Dennis Marion (on sax and trumpet) gave the band a massive swell of sound. The swinging horns and the otherworldly soul of Grey’s vocals was a mix of shined up Memphis R&B and swampy, thick blues.
They opened the show with the lone wail of JJ’s harmonica and fell right in with a massive “Country Ghetto.” On the opening number the band’s sound immediately showed enormous maturity. The presence of the horns and Adam Scone’s organ had the groove feeling like a country-fried version of the Rolling Stones. Then George Sluppick stepped in for the intro to “By My Side.” Sluppick has laid it down behind the kit with some of the best around. He was a member of Robert Walter’s 20th Congress and has shared the stage with greats like BB King, Charlie Hunter and Fred Wesley. He brought seamless syncopation to the night’s performance.
As the volume of material grows, JJ Grey’s Southern storytelling talents continue to astonish. Songs like “Gal Youngin” and “Santa Claus” stirred the crowd with emotion and soul. Daryl Hance quietly sat in the shadow and wore out his guitar, as his friend JJ hyped the crowd with some prose to the funky “Six Ways from Sunday.” They have become a very cohesive unit, and their play on this night showed off their tight rhythms and creative drive.
The cover of 100 Proof Aged in Soul’s “Everything Good is Bad” broke new ground. The eclectic cover was probably known by very few in the crowd, and easily could have been mistaken for an original based on the way they commanded the tune. As the night wound down JJ chose another cover to close the show, Muddy Waters’ “Hoochie Coochie Man.” Needless to say they nailed it, and left the crowd crying out for more. Like most Mofro shows it played out too fast, but no good thing lasts forever.