With 2007's Country Ghetto, the fan base for JJ Grey & Mofro's gritty, funky Southern rock 'n' soul grew by leaps and bounds. The title posted a 50% increase in sales over their previous release (2004's Lochloosa), scanning over 30,000 units in less than 18 months. With Grey's new release, Orange Blossoms, he and Alligator are gearing up for another jump in sales. Orange Blossoms is a masterpiece of soul-shaking music, as JJ's deep Southern roots and skill as a storyteller shine through, whether he's rocking with gospel-tent fervor or slowly winding his raspy voice around a lyric of heartbreak and loss. It's an aggressively groove-driven record fueled by JJ's gritty, smoldering vocals and funk-infused guitar playing.
There are no shortage of retro-soul outfits, but few with the 70s-style swampy swagger of this rural Florida-based act. Orange Blossoms,
’ title cut might remind some folks of Jerry Garcia's work with Merle Saunders; with its thick Booker T soul groove and jam band feel. Some of the album’s tracks bring to mind the Allman Brothers, Delanie and Bonny, Dr. John, or the Black Crowes. Grey and Mofro’s earnest songs seem to come from a pre-ironic era before digital production and ringtones. Orange Blossoms
is what most bar bands in the world think they sound like; but don’t. It’s down home, in the best sense, performed flawlessly, with an admirable disregard for fashion. --Mike McGonigal