Music

JJ. Grey & Mofro: Georgia Warhorse

A resilient songwriter grows comfortable in his own skin.


JJ. Grey & Mofro

Georgia Warhorse

Label: Alligator
US Release date: 2010-08-24
UK Release date: 2010-09-27
Amazon
iTunes

Georgia Warhorse is the fifth CD from songwriter JJ Grey and the evolving, rotating ensemble, Mofro. Since the 2001 release of the debut recording Blackwater (the band known then simply as Mofro), Grey has slowly but steadily cultivated a following among jamband, roots rock and festival fans though his sultry, swampy blend of blues and R&B that hardly classifies as improvisational or hippie rock. Rather, there’s authentic southern swagger and soul, poetic lyrics and his guttural baritone.

Grey and producer Dan Prothero haven’t strayed from the formula they developed on 2007's Country Ghetto and 2008s Orange Blossoms, a formula that often features several driving rockers, along with several swampy blues laments and aching ballads. And more than a few tracks are laced with a funky horn section again. Noticeably absent in these sessions, however, is his long time musical sidekick, guitarist Darrell Hance, who left the band amicably to pursue his own musical interests, leaving Grey to take on all six and 12-string guitars himself.

As a lyricist, Grey’s a natural storyteller, relating tales of the people, places and natural environs that surround him. Opener “Diyo Dayo” is a sweltering rocker with a sultry harmonic vamp -- it describes three characters you might find on any street corner, with steam rising from the asphalt and surrounding them, and if you listen closely enough, you might depict horns sprouting from their scalps. Both “All” and “The Hottest Spot In Hell” are up-tempo rockers featuring pumping Rhodes Organ swells, a cadence rhythm and Stax-like horns. He declares to fight the good fight against evildoers in the former, then reserves a prime spot for the worst malefactors; a tax man taking advantage of an elderly widow, someone burning Grey’s beloved Everglades, and a wife beater, in the latter.

The Blues is finely represented on Georgia Warhorse as well. “King Hummingbird” is unquestionably one of the most sublime songs he’s written or recorded. It’s an achingly beautiful, nearly seven-minute acoustic blues requiem, his fingers delicately plucking the melody on a steel six-string while the harmony is strummed on a 12-string. An avid outdoorsman, he laments from a hunter's point of view for a life of a beautiful bird he’s just taken. Taking the wildlife metaphor further, the title track is a blistering, hard driving blues cut that compares the tenacity of a jail house hardened criminal with that of a resilient grasshopper found in Northern Florida. He even growls at the bridge, “Somebody hand me that harmonica", before a slow, Howlin’ Wolf like solo. “Hide and Seek", a mid-tempo rocker with chugging guitar and funky synthesizer, is likely the most radio ready song.

“The Sweetest Thing” features the unmistakable vocals of Toots Hibbert, one of Grey’s biggest influences. Thick with Memphis soul and swing, it also features a rhythmic horn section. This could easily be a showstopper sung live, with female accompaniment. On the other hand, the scintillating slide guitar of fellow Floridian Derek Trucks augments the closer “Lullaby”, a slow building scorcher that peaks with weeping slide guitar, thundering drums, and an echoed chorus before coming to rest on Grey’s harmony guitar.

Apparently, Grey is doing his best to shed the “Mofro” name completely. A “solo” tour has been announced beginning in mid February on the west coast, and moving east in mid March. If Georgia Warhorse is an indication, it certainly seems as though this resilient grasshopper has grown comfortable in his own skin.

8

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


Keep reading... Show less
Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less
6

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image