J.J. Grey & Mofro
By James Calemine
Orange Blossoms counts as Mofro’s fourth disc. The album title represents the band’s home state of Florida’s official flower. On this disc, J.J. Grey directs the band down a STAX-flavored road. The band relies heavily on a thick bass, deep brass sound with R & B backing vocals.
On Orange Blossoms the guitar is not used as the main instrument as on previous albums. The songs retain Mofro’s trademark low-to-the-ground sound, but a thick as molasses rhythmic dynamic. The title track represents a strong opening that captures a Steve Cropper-sounding riff that shuffles the feet. “The Devil You Know” contains a brass section that conjures glorious memories of the Memphis horns. “Everything Good Is Bad” streamlines the yin and yang of temptations of the flesh in an Al Green manner with the lyrics: “When I kissed your lips/I made a big mistake…”
“The Truth” encapsulates a low-light love song fit for any romantic couple. “On Fire” takes on a funk persona straight out of the time machine from 1971 that rejuvenates the lack of soul in today’s music. The brass on “Move It On” maintains the R & B vibe throughout these 12 compositions. “Higher You Climb” would make any blaxploitation film soundtrack that verifies Grey’s soulful vocals outrank most singers these days.
“Dew Drops” would make Eddie Hinton proud with the growling guitar riff that laces the song. “Ybor City” portrays a backwoods perspective on the mean Florida town. The final track, “I Believe”, a slow number that evokes a sad resignation that one cannot worry about things one cannot change. Orange Blossoms sounds like Mofro is still mainlining swamp water…thankfully.