Florida-based JJ Grey & Mofro first caught my ear with a swamp-infused style of Southern rock I would have sworn was from the depths of Louisiana. The band managed to merge elements of soul, blues and funk into their sound. Over the years, however, that sound has slowly morphed.
Ol' Glory, the band's ninth studio album, continues the band's path down a more soulful road. Grey's got the rasp in his vocals to get gritty when needed, but his focus is closer to Otis Redding's classic approach. Where the early days of the band would have found them on tour with the Allman Brothers Band, the band now might be more at home with Ben Harper or St. Paul and the Broken Bones.
A good bit of Grey's old-school swamp boogie comes out on the title track and at the end of "Every Minute" — a quick check of the album's liner notes on the latter lets you know it's Derek Trucks offering up the blistering slide-guitar work. Luther Dickinson adds some guitar and dobro work on "The Island" and "The Hurricane."
Grey has always been able to balance upbeat rock with slower, soulful tunes, but too often it feels like he's having to hold back — keeping the energy reined in instead of letting loose like he can do so well — see the end of "Brave Lil Fighter," for example. The song sounds like a Motown outtake with its horns and layered vocals backed by some funky clavinet work.
JJ Grey & Mofro will perform at Tuck Fest at the U.S. National Whitewater Center on April 19.