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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Life in a Country Ghetto

posted by on March 29 at 11:27 AM


JJ Grey, main man behind North Florida front-porch soul outfit Mofro, wrote the introduction to his new album Country Ghetto. From the liner notes:

I grew up when the “root hog or die” days were still fresh in the minds of my parents and grandparents. I was brought up to earn it and not waste it, to respect and protect womanhood and promote manhood, and to be thankful for what you got. By today’s standards we ourselves, and most of the folks we knew, lived below the so-called “poverty line.” We were land and culture rich and dollar poor but I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for any other. I’ve always felt blessed to be raised here, to know so many larger than life characters, and to steep in the years of blood, sweat, and grim determination of my people before me.

My culture, life, and love is here in this country ghetto.

Makes you wanna hear what Mofro’s all about, dunnit?

Grey is a treasure, dedicated to preserving the rural lifestyle he grew up with in Jacksonville, a few hours from West Palm Beach, where I was born and raised. All across the state, the old Florida landscape has been decimated by rampant development and is hardly recognizable from the sand-and-swamp-strewn outback I knew as a kid. (It’s a phenomenon all too common everywhere these days.)

Blues-drenched, sweat-stained, and horn-blasted, Country Ghetto is totally Stax-influenced with a great Memphis brass sound, driven by Grey’s Otis Redding-esque vocals and Daryl Hance’s languid slide guitar. It’s a weary lament wrapped in feel-good music, full of pain but boldly undaunted. You can sample the entire album at the Mofro website.

JJ Grey & Mofro play Neumo’s Friday, April 6. Watch for the story in next week’s issue.

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I saw Mofro in Austin a year and a half ago - easily one of the best live bands I've ever seen. JJ is quite charismatic & engaging with the audience. Fans of Black Crowes and Black Keys will appreciate Mofro (if they don't already).

Posted by joshuuuua | March 29, 2007 12:25 PM

Am I wrong in associating that coiled Gadsden snake symbol w/ the confederate south? Does it predate that?

Posted by Pecknold | March 29, 2007 12:32 PM

respect and protect womanhood and promote manhood

What the fuck is that supposed to mean?

Posted by Eric Grandy | March 29, 2007 12:36 PM

thats a good question, pecknold.

the coiled snake and the "dont tread on me" motto are from pre-revolutionary war america. it was one of the first flags of the US, according to wikipedia:

its associated w libertarians across the US, more than just in the south, though gadsden was from south carolina. its also currently being flown by US customs and harbor patrol boats and naval ships.

Posted by jz | March 29, 2007 12:41 PM

Thanks for looking that up jz, it's a weirdly sinister symbol, but it makes sense in the 1700's context... Seeing the Gadsden flag hanging next to the Rebel flag in a couple basement dens as a kid maybe rattled my perception. Still, I doubt there are songs about tea taxes and British inmate relocation on this "Country Ghetto" record..

Posted by Pecknold | March 29, 2007 1:14 PM

I was working one summer down in Florida. I got robbed in Vero Beach. I was sitting in my car by a park. A guy in gorilla mask came up and held a 45 to my head. He stole my car and then robbed a bank. And he got away. They found my car in a field 2 miles away and I had it back within 4 hours.

It turns out the guy who took my car was a cop. He was killed 2 weeks later by his partner fighting over the money.

See, crack kills.

Posted by trent moorman | March 29, 2007 1:21 PM

yeah, i was just telling grandy over here that grey was a fascinating interview. he was unflinchingly personal about his motivations as an artist and as a human, and the more personal he got, the more universal he became. the "country ghetto," to him, is all those places so marginalized that theyre pretty much invisible, like the parts of mississippi that katrina wiped out that nobody heard about and places where a traditional rural lifestyle is being eradicated in the name of progress.

Posted by jz | March 29, 2007 1:23 PM

JJ n Mofro is okay, glad they ain't on Fat Possum (!)...but hearing them makes me want to listen to Mitch Ryder or better yet, Free, he sounds kinda like Paul Rodgers when singin', but his guitar playing is missing the brittle tension Kossoff could bring. Um, I KNOW it's 2007 not 1970, so the flash of brilliance long hair white folks then were finding in blues/R&B/soul has dimmed, anyways, I guess JJ n Mofro would be more appealing if they were to lay off that "nu" drum production sound, it dates the record and bogs it down in the land of not so "front porch" digital sterility. Yuck. Whatever, so Iain't gonna buy it, BUT with any luck they'll get on a couple movie soundtracks, play PBS Autin City Limits or have a commercial and that'll be it and then get HUGE. I'm sure lots of folks do/will love this guy tho', like how people love Bonnie Raitt AND Morphine.

Posted by nipper | March 29, 2007 1:27 PM

Yes to Free! I found a record on this album blog Lost in Tyme by a band called Blue Mountain Eagle that you might down with too Nipper.

Posted by Pecknold | March 29, 2007 1:43 PM

Blue Mountain Eagle! it's a great LP! and I do own it!

Posted by nipper | March 29, 2007 1:48 PM

well they are on alligator now w this new record, the true southern blues classics label compared to fat possums come latelyism. no offense to fat possum at all--ive loved them for ages now--but andrew bird? dinosaur jr? say what?

Posted by jz | March 29, 2007 2:02 PM

Fat Possum, man, I think they have quite a time just keeping their blues players ALIVE!

Posted by nipper | March 29, 2007 2:20 PM

I'm a fan of Mofro and I'm glad their getting some coverage, but JJ can't hold a candle to Paul Rodgers. Check out this singing:


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