JJ Grey And Mofro: Ol’ Glory (2015)


Georgia’s most eclectic band find contentment on just released record

The brilliant British rock band The Wildhearts, used to sell a t-shirt at gigs around about about 20 years ago. On the back of it there was this phrase: “demand the right to be unique.”  The irony wasn’t lost on some of us at the time that hundreds of people used to wear this thing, therefore eschewed the right to unique in the first place.  

The point being that the use of the word “unique” has become a watchword for lazy journalism and internet cliche. Like the word “literally” that almost literally no one uses in it’s correct context. 

But what about when something is unique. What then? Take JJ Grey and Mofro for example. With their last album, the quite marvellous “This River” they concocted something quite unlike anything else. They took soul, funk, gospel and rock and melded it into something that was well, unique. 

“…..River” was a brilliant record, and riotous fun when played live. “Ol’ Glory” finds the band in a more relaxed mode, but it is no less thrilling. Where last time out it was shady lady’s and losing our minds that concerned the lyrics and the stories that were told, this time seems to be about finding some inner calm. 

The laid back vibes of opening salvo “Everything Is A Song” finds Grey “hearing the Palm Trees sing with the sun” and it’s blissful soul strains make for a uplifting opener. The mood continues on “Brave Little Fighter” which takes a simple bluesy/soul structure and builds gloriously over the course of its time and “Light A Candle” is chilled out stuff. 

But this is JJ Grey – the old Georgia Warhorse himself – so you best believe there’s some twists and turns waiting. “Turn Loose” is wonderfully funky, the mournfully acoustic driven blues of “Tic Tac Toe” is dark, while the stripped back folk of “The Hurricane” sounds like some outtake from a Steve Earle album. 

But if you really want to understand why JJ Grey And Mofro are so vital and quite so – to use the word again – unique, then skip towards the end of the record. The title track finds the frontman in full-on gospel preacher role and it’s his rabble rousing best. Straight after this comes “Night To Night Remember” which concerns itself with matters of lust, but does so in a 1960s way to match it’s sound. Our hero “turns up his collar and gives it his best James Dean” before invoking the spirit of Clark Gable. If they don’t write them like this anymore, they damn well should, after this comes “The Island” which is a stark contrast, with it’s acoustics and double bass. 

This superb collection concludes with the reflective “Every Minute,” which concludes that we should “love every minute we live in.” Which is kinda where we came in with the opening song. 

There’s a soulful heart to this record that makes it warm and welcoming. And you feel that with “Ol Glory” JJ Grey might have matched personal contentment with artistic happiness. And there’s still no one that does this quite like – or quite as well. Demand the right to be unique, indeed.

Rating 9/10


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