Tag Archives: mofro

JJ Grey & Mofro at the Jeff

web 001JJ Grey & Mofro released their seventh studio album Ol’ Glory last week and took to the road to celebrate. The band pulled into the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, VA on Wednesday, March 4, a night ahead of the East Coast’s most recent snow storm, to heat up the stately renovated old venue.

 
The nearly sold out Wednesday night crowd didn’t need much help getting into the show, but got a quick charge of adrenaline when the band opened with fan favorite “Brighter Days.” Playing such an anthem to start the night foretold that Grey had many things he needed to get to, most importantly his new material. Mofro played six of the twelve new songs from Ol’ Glory, demonstrating that Grey’s self-revealing and soulful song writing shows no indication of slowing down.

 
Highlights of the new material included “A Night to Remember,” a bouncy R&B song with a tasty horn track reminiscent of the best of the Stax label’s Memphis Horns. Then the album’s title track “Ol’ Glory” served as the final encore. From the opening Fender Rhodes keyboard sound and the infectious and fast horn line, the song settles on the back of the hard driving and funky bass line. This song whipped the crowd into a frenzy and left everybody wanting more.

 
The musical highlights of the night came on two trusted favorites. “Lochloosa” is a song that never disappoints live, and although the band plays this song regularly, the power of “Lochloosa” consistently brings out the best in Mofro. The second came during the song “Ho Cake,” which was extended to allow the band to stretch out. This was an electric twenty minutes of music showing what a group of road warrior musicians can do after playing together for years.

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The scene was set for this moment with a beautiful set design. A gigantic tapestry hanging across the back of the stage depicted the new album cover and gave the sense you were looking out a picture window onto an old tree in a meadow. The stage was adorned with lamps and end tables further giving the sense you were watching these guys in the comfort of their living room.

 

 
After the initial verse and chorus, the band took off on a ride, bringing the audience with them. Bassist Todd Smallie and drummer Anthony Cole play together like they were brothers brought up in the same house. They play web 024with joy, constantly adding little things and watching each other react. The rest of the band gets in on it as well and before long the musical conversation has gotten deep. As solos bounce around from one bandmate to the next, the supporting cast listens and reacts, displaying an understanding that was born out of hundreds and hundreds of nights playing together. Capping it off when the vocals return, Grey tries to stump the band with how he approaches the lyric’s rhythm. The band never misses a stop, leaving everyone laughing together like best friends.

 
JJ Grey is an honest and adept front man, building a band deserving of his heavyweight talent. This is a can’t miss tour and if you are a fan you need to get out and see it.

 

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

Spring Back to Vail, 4/12/12 – 4/15/12: Grace Potter, Thievery Corp, JJ Grey, Iration

Spring Back to Vail
Vail, CO
April 12-15, 2012

 

 

While virtually the entire rest of the country is busy proving that Punxsutawney Phil was once again full of shit when he and his top hat wearing handlers predicted that we would have an extended winter, the folks in the destination town of Vail, CO are still as rosy cheeked as the rest of us were when waiting in line for that 3-D TV that we now realize was an awful buy in spite of its low price on Black Friday. And this past weekend, they all “sprung back” with four day weekend long event dubbed Spring Back to Vail.

These events are becoming increasingly common in the village that skiers flock to when they want to experience some of the best powder and slopes that the Rockies have to offer. Amongst others, the snowboarder’s mecca boasts such events as with the annual Snow Daze and Teva Summer and Winter Mountain Games.

Just as with these other events, Spring Back was based around sport, but not just any old sport… the World Pond Skimming Championships.

Of course there was also music throughout the days and at the close of each night, the organizers brought in quite a diverse bunch: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals (Thursday), Thievery Corporation w/ DJ Logic (Friday), JJ Grey & Mofro (Saturday) and Iration (Sunday).

 

Click on the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the event by Zach Mahone

(Zach’s photo journey on Facebook)

 

 

 

 

Swamp Talk: an Honest Tune Interview with JJ Grey (VIDEO)

web-008.jpgWhat can be said about JJ Grey that hasn’t been said before? Bringing up Grey in conversation inevitably brings about partisan discussion. But, the conversations stay music focused, and for good reason. With Mofro’s stellar level of improvisational musicianship, the stage for delivery is laid neatly at JJ’s feet and he has run with it.

Aside from this, what is perhaps most compelling — and possibly dividing — about Grey is the fact that he fills the aforementioned space with integrity.

Sure, he is a soul singer, songwriter and musician, but there have been a lot of those. What sets Grey apart is his unique storytelling ability. His vocals are guttural, his stage presence is large, his soul shines even when it does so darkly and his overall sound is honest.

Continue reading Swamp Talk: an Honest Tune Interview with JJ Grey (VIDEO)

Jam Cruise Artist Testimonials, Part Two: JJ Grey, Zach Deputy & Greensky Bluegrass (VIDEO)

jc header promo.jpgIt is a well known fact that we absolutely love Jam Cruise. Simply put, there really is nothing about the five day adventure that is not lovable. The sun in January, the vast and endless sea as a backdrop and sit-ins that literally only happen on Jam Cruise all make for an annual event that is in a league unto itself.  Of course all of this fails to mention the camaraderie  of the passengers.

Over the years, so many incredible talents have graced the decks and theatres of the various boats that Jam Cruise has called home. So with this upcoming sailing being the monumental tenth one, we thought that a series featuring artists (who have played on the boat) telling Jam Cruise stories and testifying to the event’s greatness would be appropriate.

In the first part of this series, we sat down with Michael Franti, Grace Potter, Cornmeal’s John-Paul Nowak, and the Everyone Orchestra’s Matt Butler. This time, JJ Grey, Zach Deputy and Greensky Bluegrass’ Anders Beck and Mike Devol all share their thoughts and memories from their time sailing the high seas of Jam Cruise.

Continue reading Jam Cruise Artist Testimonials, Part Two: JJ Grey, Zach Deputy & Greensky Bluegrass (VIDEO)

Luther & Crowes steal the show at Blues & Brews

Telluride Blues & Brews Festival
Telluride, Colorado
September 14-16, 2007

Words by Fred Adams / photos by:

Taking the stage to close out the 14th annual Telluride Blues & Brews Festival, the members of The Black Crowes said nary a word.  Opening their set with “Wiser Time,” nearly every member of the band shared what seemed to be a singular, huge smile, as if they had something up their sleeves, but were not going to say what it was. 

 

Continue reading Luther & Crowes steal the show at Blues & Brews

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.