Saturday, October 18, 2008

JJ Grey & Mofro @ The State Theatre

On October 15th, we watched one of our favorite bands, JJ Grey & Mofro, perform at the The State Theatre in Falls Church Virginia. We were first exposed to the band at the Austin City Limits festival, maybe in 2004. Since then we’ve listened to the band evolve from a bluesy folk style in Blackwater– to a full blown funk, soul, and R&B sound in Country Ghetto. The band’s core is JJ Grey on vocals, guitar, harmonica, and keyboards and Daryl Hance on the slide guitar. At least that’s how we first heard them. The current lineup includes Adam Scone on bass and organ, Anthony Cole on drums, Art Edmaiston on the sax, and Dennis Marion on trumpet. The songs reflect Grey’s life growing up in the swamp lands of Northeast Florida. In fact, during shows he often sites how it wasn’t until he was living in London attempting to become the next Elvis Costello – when he had a prophecy to return to his roots.Lochloosa , both the song and CD, reflects these roots. Currently, the band is touring in support of Orange Blossoms – with the title song describing the magnificent birth of spring in north Florida.

The last we heard JJ Grey & Mofro was on a road trip to Raleigh over a year ago – in support of Country Ghetto. This was our first exposure to the funkier R&B sound accentuated with the new horn section. We were pleased to see the lineup intact tonight and that Orange Blossom continues the same path set the previous year. Basically, the show was awesome – they intertwined songs from their last three CDs – and we particularly enjoyed the horn section on the more original bluesy songs from Lochloosa. But most of the songs were from Country Ghetto: "War", "Mississippi", "Country Ghetto", "Circles", "A Woman" to name a few. Grey was simultaneously ornery and playful – with a constant smile throughout the night. The band complements each other and Grey often stepped aside to allow other members take center stage. It seems we spent half of the show concentrating to hear Hance on the slide guitar. His chords are soft and his minimalist approach gets overshadowed by his band mates. But if you concentrate you can listen how his notes blend with the song. But the stage is Grey’s and he is most powerful singing one of his slower songs, such as "Fireflies", "The Sun is Shining Down", "A Woman", or "Circles". His voice seems tailored for this style – giving the lyrics meaning and more “authenticy”. Of the songs from the new CD, the title track is clearly our favorite - but we look forward to listening to the entire compilation in more detail.

Opening for Mofro was another blues act, the newly formed, Hill Country Revue. This band formed when Luther Dickinson took time off from the The North Mississippi Allstars in order to tour with The Black Crowes. Brother Cody Dickinson and band mate bassists Chris Chew needed new work so they assembled together a few friends: singer/harp player Dan Coburn, guitarist Kirk Smithhart, and guitarist Garry Burnside. This evening Cody took center stage on the guitar and washboard – starting the evening on the washboard and ending it with a tremendous washboard solo - something you don't see everyday. In between - the music was contemprary hard driving blues - with great guitar playing - even when Smithhart broke a string - he didn't miss a beat - staying in rhythm with the band. Perhaps the best performance was the guitar duel between Smithhart and Dickinson - each trying to out perform the other. Eventually the The North Mississippi Allstars will regroup - but in the meantime the Hill Country Revue is a worthy alternative.

1 comment:

Helen said...

Great review of Mofro. I hope I get to see them one day.