by Alex Melnick
Arts & Life Editor
Jacksonville native and my fellow homegrown Floridian JJ Grey & Mofro are coming to Hal & Mal’s! This show is April 22 at 8 p.m., and will cost $25. Despite the double name, it’s all the same band: JJ Grey, Andrew Trube, Anthony Farrell, drummer Anthony Cole, the “Hercules Horns” Dennis Marion, Art Edmaiston and Todd Smallie compose the group. The band initially went by “Mofro” because lead singer Grey felt it capsulated the sound the band made, and it sounded suitably southern to them. However, when Grey’s grandmother confronted him about her feeling he was ashamed to use his own name, he switched the band name up to reflect his position as the frontman. This blues band has country influences and is famed for its live jams. (They sound like if Alexi Murdoch had a full backing band, and maybe smoked too much.)
So what exactly does a Mofro sound like? In order to help our readers decide if they should spend their cash on this festival circuit favorite, I’ve reviewed the top five JJ Grey & Mofro tracks.
- The Sun is Shining Down, from The Choice Cuts (2009)
I feel like if I was seducing someone in a forest, or at least a cabin the woods, I would play this song. It’s slow, it’s bluesy and it makes me feel like maybe I should invite a potential love interest to this show. But it also has religious overtones (Grey sings “Glory, Glory, Halleljuah” in his reedy voice), which makes me feel dirty for even suggesting that one should have romantic thoughts during this show. This song is also essentially the same thing for five minutes. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the same thing. If I were in a ‘90s movie, this is what I would play for the credits.
Overall: 4/5 Mofros
- Lochloosa from The Choice Cuts (2009)
JJ Grey says this song is about growing up in the woods of North Florida, and I feel that. I’m a native Floridian, and I deeply relate to the sleepy, vaguely sexual metaphors about Florida and how most of the song about the heat and mosquitos. That’s really all there is in North Florida. He also mentions developers and rails against gated communities. This pleases me as well. This blues/bluegrass song is a catalog of all the things that crop up in North Florida, and has a great rhythm. It’s short, it’s sweet, it’s perfect for sitting out on the porch.
- 99 Shades of Crazy from This River (2013)
This song is so punchy. It’s a sassy country breakup song that features saxophones. Imagine driving off into the sunset to this song. It’d be so great. The song later develops into a full blown jazzy, poppy kiss-off ballad, complete with a blues guitar breakdown. Here, Grey really reminds me of Jack White, and the harmonies remind me of the Grateful Dead. It’s definitely a weird combo, but it’s a good one.
- The Sweetest Thing from Georgia Warhorse (2010)
This is a great song to slow dance to. Play it, and woo your boo. A thing I’ve noticed about this band is that they have a great sense of when horns would be just right for the song, and not too ska-sounding or cheesy. The song’s lyrics are pretty basic: You’re the sweetest thing/the sweetest thing, but sometimes simple is what you need. I could see myself dancing to this at a music festival and not feeling embarrassed, because the rhythm is so simple.
- Brighter Days from S/T (2011)
Oh, this is live. I personally cannot stand live tracks, but I’m sure for fans of this band, it’s very powerful to hear everyone sing along to the inspirational lyrics to this song. Sadly, this is an eight-minute version, with what by now I recognize as a basic JJ Grey and Mofro beat: bluesy stanzas, jazzy happy horns for the chorus and bridge.
Verdict: Find your inner Mofro and head on down to Hal & Mal’s next week!