Album Review

JJ Grey & Mofro - Country Ghetto

JJ Grey & Mofro - Country Ghetto

Jacksonville, Florida, is and always will be Van Zant country, but there are other voices swimming around down near the swamps. On their third album, JJ Grey & Mofro, hooked up now with Chicago's Alligator label, sound more comfortable in their sound than ever, and Grey rasps and roars through a platter of tasty front-porch funk that's designed to make you feel the south, right down the soupy humidity and the troublingly huge mosquitoes. Smartly, Grey focuses on his big, soulful voice, keeping the music spare and using bluesy horns and choral flourishes judiciously. He shoots for topics big and small: the encroachment of timber barons on his home country ("On Palastine"), pre-damaged relationships ("Circles"), and the tricky vibe associated with his birthplace (the title track, on which he sings, "I see the look in your eyes/I know I'm simple and plain"). All through Country Ghetto, Grey addresses his geography like the Drive-By Truckers, painting every track with proud southernness but nicely brushing aside -- or maybe failing to acknowledge, even -- the stereotypes such a label still brings with it down in Skynyrdland.