Tag Archives: George Sluppick

Sons of Mudboy a family affair

Sons of Mudboy
1884 Lounge
Memphis, Tennessee
May 29, 2013

Luther Dickinson stood at the front of the stage, drenched in sweat, microphone in one hand and the other cocked back to accentuate the lyrics he was delivering like the deftest of MCs. It was towards the end of yet another marathon Wednesday night set by the Sons of Mudboy, and Dickinson had the crowd in the palm of his hand. That’s what the residency has turned into; two months into their weekly gig at 1884 Lounge in Minglewood Hall, the band is ever-changing, but one thing remains the same: the friends, family, and neighbors that faithfully arrive each week know that anything and everything can happen.

_MG_8190-BDickinson is the de facto leader of the band whose line-up is always in flux. Depending on who’s available, on any given night the entire roster can and will change. As May came to a close, the group that kicked off the evening included the actual sons of Mudboy & the Neutrons: Luther and Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars, Black Crowes, etc.), son of Jim Dickinson; Ben Baker, son of Lee Baker, and Steve Selvidge (the Hold Steady, Big Ass Truck), son of Sid Selvidge. The band was joined by original Neutron Jimmy Crosthwait, drummer Robert Barnett (Big Ass Truck), Paul Taylor (the Merry Mobile and others), and George Sluppick (Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Mofro). Seemingly everyone on stage had a connection to one another, be it blood or musically.

It’s been a ride watching the band develop over the past two months. While they have played together for decades, to watch a band literally sprout on stage over the course of time has been a treat. The band can seemingly play anything and everything, and the first set started with the bluesy intro jam, which was followed with by the folksy, shuffling “John Henry > Judge Bouche.”

One of the intriguing features of the band is their versatility – the ability of nearly everyone on stage to swap instruments at any time. So, while Luther is by trade a guitar player – it has always been his instrument of choice be it with the Allstars or while he was with the Black Crowes – he started the show on bass but over the course of the show also played guitar and keyboards. Likewise, Taylor moved from guitar to drums to bass with little to no loss in play quality.

The addition of Sluppick for the night brought an added element to the line-up. One, he’s a damn fine drummer, Chris Robinson wouldn’t have tapped him for his band otherwise. Two it allowed allowed for Taylor to spend a little more time on bass and guitar.

This musical dexterity was on display during the finest moment of the first set, “Codine.” During this Buffy Sainte-Marie tune that Jim Dickinson had in his rotation, Luther laid down a steady bass line while Taylor unleashed a furious guitar solo. Jim Dickinson’s version of the tune had an edge to it, but the Sons’ version is spacey in an Allman-esque way. And, with two drummers on stage and dual guitars, it took on that tone exponentially.

_MG_8440-BThe second set opened with more players on stage. With the addition of local saxophone players Jim Spake and Art Edmaiston (Mofro) and bass player John Stubblefield (Lucero), there were 11 people crammed onto the tiny 1884 Lounge stage. The collective started with the soul of Wilson Picket’s “Land of 1000 Dances,”  segued into Jr. Walker’s “Shotgun,” and it eventually evolved into a gritty take on the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

The transition into the song seemed a tad disjointed as they went from one tempo into something completely different, but that’s kinda expected given there were nearly a dozen people on stage, some of whom had probably never played together. Accentuated by the haunting saxophones and reverb-drenched guitar from Selvidge, Luther delivered the lyrics with a growl. As the jam progressed the band settled into a nice pocket, and Luther broke out the slide to deliver one of his trademark solos. The band’s eventual transition back into “Shotgun” was a much smoother affair.

The band genre-jumped again to close the show, going from the Beastie Boys’ “Mark on the Bus” into a jam that touched on Sly & the Family Stone’s  “I Want to Take You Higher,” with Taylor laying down some downright funky bass lines.

As the show came to a close, it was evident that there’s true musical chemistry between the core members of the group. There are some connections that take years and years to nuture and some that are instantaneous, and each Wednesday, the Sons of Mudboy seem to display both.

Click on the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show by Josh Mintz

Chris Robinson Brotherhood, 11/2/12

Chris Robinson Brotherhood
Neighborhood Theater
Charlotte, NC
November 2, 2012

Sure, the Black Crowes may be on hiatus, but the band that Chris Robinson has put together since has been nothing short of stellar. Chris Robinson Brotherhood has been touring relentlessly and the band – comprised of fellow Crowe Adam MacDougall on keyboards, George Sluppick (Mofro, City Champs) on drums, “Muddy” Dutton on bass, and Neal Casal (Ryan Adams and the Cardinals) on guitar – is phenomenal.

They stopped in Charlotte and the Neighborhood Theater, and Brad Kuntz was there to capture the magic.

First Set: Let’s Go Let’s Go Let’s Go, Tomorrow Blues, Mother of Stone, Star or Stone, Bertha, Vibration & Light Suite, Little Lizzie Mae, Blue Suede Shoes

Second Set: Meanwhile in the Gods…, 40 Days, Train Robbers, Hello L.A. Bye Bye Birmingham, Badlands Here We Come, Tough Mama, Sunday Sound, Rosalee

Encore: Reflections on a Broken Mirror, Mr. Charlie

Click on the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show by Brad Kuntz…

The new Mofro show

Mofro has alway been about two guys:  JJ Grey and Daryl Hance.  They've had a rotating cast of supporting musicians over their career, but looking back to Blackwater and Locholoosa, the liner notes of each state "Mofro is JJ Grey and Daryl Hance."

That is, until their February 2007 release, Country Ghetto

No longer does the front of the disc read "Mofro."  It reads "JJ Grey and Mofro" and if the CD billing wasn't clear enough, things in Memphis certainly showed who was the man in Mofro. 

For several years (and possibly longer) the stage had looked as follows:  Grey on the left, George Sluppick situated at the back on drums, Hance's guitar rig in the middle, and Adam Scone's Hammond on the right.  This time things differed.  JJ's organ was situated at the front of the stage, and Hance's amp and chair were at the left and behind JJ.  Perhaps it was because there was a horn section, The Hercules Horns, (Art Edmaiston on sax and Dennis Marion on trumpet) backing up the band, but maybe it was something different.

It may be marketing, or perhaps it's just the natural evolution of a band trying to find its way in a cutthroat industry.  Either way, there has been a clear development that has unfolded over the last year – that of JJ Grey as a front man.  Grey has gone on record as stating that the stories have always been his, that he felt like he was hiding behind the name Mofro.  There's no denying that the man whose name is now top billing has always been the charismatic face of the band from Florida.

While the stage may look different, the show itself hasn't changed.  There's still as much soul as one act can pour into an evening, a night of desperate stories of women, of country living, and of place.  And if there's one man who can spin a web about where he came from, it's JJ Grey.

From the opening licks of  "Blackwater," a tale about hometown pride, it was clear who was in charge in Memphis.  As JJ oozed with passion, Daryl Hance went about his playing as he does each time out, in an unassuming fashion.  If there's any musician out there who looks like they could care less about where they sit on stage so long as they have their instrument in hand, it's Hance.  There are players who have stage presence in an "addition-by-subtraction" manner.  Derek Trucks gets on stage and it's all substance and no show – it's just guitar playing done right.  But, at least he cracks a smile every now and again, and there are once-in-a-blue-moon rare moments where his mouth opens up and he throws his head back.

Not Hance, though. 

Nope, he just sits there, and doesn't exactly seem to have the refined, expert-level chops to back up his lack of presence.  Perhaps the skill is there, and it's just he needs to be turned up in the stage mix.  But until a solo in the set-ending "War," his contributions weren't really evident.

 

 

 

Grey, though, has clearly stepped up his game.  His name's front and center, after all, and he responded.  He was all over the place, bouncing from guitar (where he made vain attempts at soloing – if there ever was a band who needs a true lead guitarist, it's Mofro, but Grey gets points for trying), to harmonica to his organ.  However, his contributions were spot on in the area he always delivers – on the vocals, where there are few out there with as much passion and feeling in their voice.

The Hercules Horns, though, really enhanced the Mofro stage show.  They brought the much-needed soloist feel to a band that desperately needs it, a band who tours in "jamband circles," where having a stand-out musician tends to be a vital component to a successful show.  Edmaiston, a Memphis local (Gamble Brothers Band, the Grip), got his first chance to shine during a phenomenal "Nare Sugar," where he belted out a funky solo that really set the song off.  The show-ending "Ho Cake" was stellar because of Edmaiston and Marion, who were front and center, sharing a microphone and and playing their horns like it was their last hour on Earth. 

Grey was in the middle of it all.  He was singing.  He was dancing.  He was down on his knees playing his harmonica, and writhing around on his back.  He was everything that a front man is supposed to be.

So where does this leave the band going forward?  Rumor is the horns will be a steady component of the future Mofro.  It will be interesting to see how this affects the dynamic of the band, a dynamic that's already in flux.

Mofro gets Social in Orlando

JJ Grey and Mofro
The Social
Orlando, Florida
August 16th 2007

photos by Zach Mahone / lifeshotz.com

A line of JJ Grey and Mofro fans extended its way down the sidewalk outside of the Social in downtown Orlando, eagerly awaiting the Florida-bred band with deep roots.  Mofro has cultivated a strong following of devoted enthusiasts with a thick concentration in the South and particularly in their home state. Their fans always come out in full force and ready to get down. The recent Orlando show was no exception.

 

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Stepping Out Of Shadows: JJ Grey’s Mofro

 

"I'll tell you one thing I'm grateful for, in this year that I turn 50, having done it for so long: I'm still excited about the projects I'm involved with, and I go 'Boy, I'm lucky.' As long as I have this attitude of excitement I know it's going to be ok."

It's positive, life-affirming statements like this that permeate my discussion with keyboardist T Lavitz. Perhaps he is right; maybe he is lucky, but there's no way luck can account for the remarkable career he's built for himself.

 

Continue reading Stepping Out Of Shadows: JJ Grey’s Mofro