JJ Grey will be the first to proclaim the disappearance of the south to growth and development. But a listen to the music of Grey and his band MOFRO will bring to life the sights, sounds and smells that continue to slowly fade away, particularly in his hometown in rural northern
Relying on family heritage, homespun history and love of soul and gospel music, Country Ghetto is the third and most mature offering from Grey and partner in crime guitarist Daryl Hance, furthering a vision that came together when the two began making music together nearly 15 years ago. On this release, the two are amply backed by drummer George Sluppick and organist Adam Scone. While MOFRO’s first two releases, Blackwater and Lochloosa, introduced funky, southern soul and a deeply bred love of home, respectively, Country Ghetto exposes Grey as a musician coming into his own. The party feel of early offerings is less prominent, Grey still fills his gritty tomes with vital tension and easy release. Heavy funk propels the politically charged “War,” while backwoods swing underscores the heartfelt “By Your Side.”
But the rough-and-tumble, juke-joint groove of the title track and the glowing vehemence of “The Sun is Shining Down” display the blue collar brilliance of Grey’s writing. Throw swinging horns and gospel choruses into the unpretentious, organic soul, and it is clear that this singer, songwriter, and storyteller is destined to keep the legacy of his homeland, its livelihood, and the music that inspired him alive.
Country Ghetto is out now on Alligator Records.