JJ Grey and Mofro, The Wilma Theater, Missoula, MT – 9/9
Photo by Carla Kilgore
What can be deduced from seeing JJ Grey and Mofro perform a live show is that if this is a band in the business of selling itself through its performances, the band members certainly deserve the title of salesmen of the year. Mofro consists of Anthony Cole on a simple drum kit, Anthony Farrell on organ, Art Edmaiston playing saxophone and Dennis Marion on trumpet with Todd Smallie holding down the bass and the talented Andrew Trube on guitar. The group created a canvas of which upon JJ Grey painted over with his piercing harp solos, solid guitar riffs and above all else his soulful soothing Southern blues vocals.
Coming out with the title track off their previous album Orange Blossoms, the house was dancing and singing along to the catchy chorus, a simple song that grabs you from the first notes. JJ Grey brings a beautiful mix of soulful-blues and funk and whips it into gravy. Grey then started to loosen up and demonstrate his ability to connect directly to the crowd by introducing “Diyo Dayo”, as a song he wrote about making one mistake from his latest album Georgia Warhorse. This potent blues-infused song relates how all it takes is one wrong move and your heart can be ripped from your chest. “Georgia Warhorse,” named after the famed yellow and black striped Southern Grasshopper, was delivered in a rolling Southern rock-style. JJ Grey’s vocals powered over his piercing acoustic guitar work, and the slide of guitarist Trube who was spectacular throughout the night. Playing the harp, Grey drew out the mid-section of the song until the room was spinning with Southern Blues. It was Intense.
JJ Grey took time to talk to the fans in between songs, grabbing a beer and making a toast to the crowd of Missoula folk. He spoke of how beautiful and free it is up in Montana, and the people there must love the outdoors, the fresh air, the wildlife and of course their beer, to large cheers. He then spoke about the most beautiful place in the world to him, where there aren’t tract homes and skyscrapers, and then introduced the song “Lochloosa,” the title track off his second album. He was on fire at this point, singing about his home in the everglades of Florida, at times with a smile so large on his face it would pass from band member to member until the crowd caught the contagiousness of it and smiled back.
“Slow Hot and Sweaty” also off Georgia Warhorse was delivered as a sultry piece of vocal magic. The band, Mofro is quite talented, from the consistent and uplifting bass playing of Smallie, the tempo-ed drumming of Cole and horn section of Edmaiston and Marion to the organ work of Farrell. But without a doubt the strongest instrument in the band is the piercing and powerful voice of JJ Grey. This man is chalk full of talent with an intense ability to move his voice from raspy and bluesy to get down and boogie James Brown funk. Hide and Seek” also was transfixing, with the crowd moving to the funky beat and harmonized chorus. It also was there where every band member was introduced and given their due time to show off why the group is called JJ Grey and Mofro and not just JJ Grey. The horn section was the powerful punch needed during the fills, and the group proved worthy to back such a vocalist.
JJ Grey and Mofro deliver music with soul that makes you want to dance and begs you to participate. So if you happen upon a JJ Grey show anytime in the future, be sure to bring your smile, dancing shoes, and be ready to be carried into the deep South for a night of bluesy genre-bending music.