JJ Grey and Mofro – Brighter Days: The Film and Live Concert Album

January 01, 1970

(Alligator)

 

www.alligator.com

 

JJ Grey and Mofro, a dynamic combination of swamp rock,
soul, blues and funk, might just be the most important band to come out of the
American South in the 21st century so far. And like other legendary artists
of the South, such as Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd,
they have to be heard live to fully understand their power.

 

Brighter Days is a
combination DVD/CD that records the band’s appearance at the Atlanta Variety
Playhouse in January 2011. The DVD, which is over two hours long, is shot in
classic “rockumentary” style and features not just the stage performance but
interspaced interviews with the band. The CD is 98 minutes long and while it
might not be Otis Redding at Monterey,
The Allmans at the Fillmore or Skynyrd at the Fox, it is damn close and a
classic live album in its own right, capturing a band that has become road
warriors in the last decade.

 

To understand Grey you have to know the American South, the
region that served as incubator for America’s greatest cultural gift to
the world. Drive down the rural highways of Mississippi and you can feel the blues
rising up through the hot earth like cotton. Whether the Stax sound of Memphis,
the horns of Muscle Shoals, the country sound of George Jones or the swamp rock
of Florida and Georgia, the music is infused with
a passion and truth and that truth is the blues. Grey comes from Northern Florida, which also gave us Skynyrd.

 

Brighter Days shows
exactly why this is a great band. Grey has a knack for writing songs with
infectious hooks that are perfect for singing or dancing along. Grey’s songs
often start with a whisper and build to a roar. And the DVD perfectly displays
the revival meeting passion Grey and Mofro bring to their live shows, as Grey
prowls the stage, playing his guitar and working the crowd like a preacher. And
the songs have a serious message. They capture the beauty and sadness of the
rural south. Grey preaches the backwoods wisdom and blue collar values in a
world where globalization and corporate capitalism are destroying those values
day by day. He sings on “Brighter Days”: “But I belong in the South/ That was where I’s born a po’ boy/Livin’ life
like there’s no end in sight/Brighter days where did they go?” And the
answer is that they are gone, gone, gone and that way of life is fucked
forever. But this is the blues, so we’ll keep singing and dancing.  

 

Nowhere is this more evident here than on an eleven minute
and twenty second powerhouse of a song called “Lochloosa” about Grey’s home
between Jacksonville and Ocala. It stars quietly with Grey’s spoken word plea
for his “home…a place where you can leave the bullshit behind for a few
minutes.” He says nobody will want to build a condo there because it is too far
out but adds the cautionary “yet” which shows that he knows development is
coming. At about eight minutes in, Grey unleashes a searing guitar solo. Like
Skynyrd’s classic “All I Can Do Is Write About It,” this is a transcendent
tribute to the South: part celebration, part blues, an American elegy.

 

Brighter Days is
that rarest of albums; one that is not only great musically but actually has
something important to say. From the hard rocking rhythm of a song like “War”
to the sax solo on “Air” that is right out of jazz to the funky horn jam of “On
Fire” the is both a CD and DVD that never misses. Congratulations to Alligator
Records for having the vision to sign an artist like JJ Grey and Mofro; a band
that pushes the boundaries of the blues. If you buy one live album this year,
do yourself a favor and make it Brighter
Days.
This is one of the best albums of the year. 

 

 

DOWNLOAD: “Country
Ghetto” “Brighter Days” “War” “Lochloosa” “The Sun is Shining Down”  TOM
CALLAHAN 

 

 

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