Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of great blues acts still bouncing around in the music industry today, but for the most part it seems that one of the greatest music genres to ever grace our ears may soon be a distant memory. Sure you still have blues legends like BB King, Buddy Guy and Johnny Winter still touring in their twilight years and great lesser known acts such as Roomful of Blues keeping the genre kicking, but few blues acts today make it big at least not without compromising their sound to lean closer to alternative rock such as the Black Keys. Under the radar blues act JJ Gray & Mofro are one rare group, that while they may not playing on national radio stations, have reached relative stardom without compromising their unfiltered Cajun influenced melding of blues and funk sound.
The group’s front man JJ Gray got his start in rural Florida growing up on local music that he heard at Barbeques and at local music venues. Gray fell in love with the state of Florida and incorporated that fondness into many of his lyrics, especially the band’s hit single, “Lochloosa,” off the group’s 2004 album of the same name. Since their formation in the late 1990s the JJ Gray & Mofro have released five albums, most recently their 2010 “Georgia Warhouse.” In 2011, the group broke into the international market beginning to tour in the U.K. and throughout Europe.
JJ Gray & Mofro’s sound can be slightly hard to label, since the group has such a broad range of influences. According to the group’s website, Gray’s influences go from Lynyrd Skynyrd, Otis Redding, George Jones, and even grand Ole Opry comedian Jerry Clower. For those of you music junkies out there like me, those influences range between southern rock, soul and country. The result is a sound that transcends a specific genre to something unique, and makes for a refreshing new group to grace your MP3 player.
Their influence of soul and funk can clearly be heard in the band’s lyrics and rhythm guitar work, with JJ Gray’s talent in song writing coming through with most of the group’s music catalogue. Still despite the heavy soul and funk influence, the group’s bluesy comes out in many of their song’s with their use of bluesy guitar riffs adding a little bit of intensity to their otherwise laid back sound. One of my favorite aspects of JJ Gray and Mofro would have to be some of the group’s harmonica work in some of their biggest singles such as, “Pray for Rain.”
It’s rare that a band catches my attention as quickly as JJ Gray & Mofro. Discovering this group by chance on Pandora at work a few weeks ago I still find them to be one of the first things I listen to when I sit down to get my grove on. You’d be missing out on a great act if you don’t take the time to check these guys out, I’d love to be a little more poetic to close out this column but there’s no other way to describe missing out on JJ & Mofro as anything but a mistake. Their entire library is worth listening to, but my personal favorites are “Dirtfloorcracker” and “Ten Thousand Islands.” Acts like these don’t come often, and it’s up to any avid music lover to keep music like funk and blues from disappearing completely.