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Country Ghetto

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Album Review

For many people, the word "Florida" conjures up images of sunshine, white-hot sands, and white-hot nightlife. That's not the Florida JJ Grey inhabits. Sounding forth from his ancestral home 40 miles outside of Jacksonville, Grey's Florida is inhabited by water moccasins, gators, and characters whose murky, besotted Southern Gothic pasts match the dreary, desolate landscape. On Country Ghetto, his third album and debut for Alligator Records (of course), Grey and his bandmates revisit the hallowed but largely forsaken musical environs of swamp rock. Taking their cues from early Creedence Clearwater Revival and Tony Joe White, Mofro play a slinky, sinuous brand of Louisiana soul-funk-blues, while Grey himself alternates between the good ol' boy debauchery of Ronnie Van Zant and Lynyrd Skynyrd and the classic soul entreaties of Otis Redding and Clarence Carter. There are highlights everywhere. "Footsteps" quotes from Link Wray's incomparable surf stomp "Rumble" before morphing into the dirty swamp boogie of "Turpentine." "A Woman" finds Grey in pleading Redding mode, complete with spot-on Stax/Volt horns and swirling Wurlitzer, while the funkfest of "Mississippi" and the gorgeous, hymnlike gospel of "The Sun Is Shining Down" showcase both the band's undeniable chops and Grey's raw vocal prowess. There are a few missteps. The dirge-like "On Palestine," another of Grey's back-porch family stories, drones on a little too long, and the closer, "Goodbye," limps toward the finish line. But those are minor quibbles. Country Ghetto is a down-and-dirty delight, and a fine addition to the swamp rock canon.


Formed: 1996 in Jacksonville, FL

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Although Mofro is based in the Florida city of Jacksonville, near where JJ Grey and Daryl Hance grew up, the band actually formed across the Atlantic in London. The Floridians were in Great Britain to work on a recording contract that ended up going sour. While in London, the two musicians made the acquaintance of Nathan Shepherd, a keyboard player from Down Under, and Fabrice Quentin, a bassist who hails from France. Shepherd and Quentin joined them for a short time under the Mofro moniker. Unfortunately,...
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Country Ghetto, JJ Grey & Mofro
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