"One of the Best Of The Decade In Music"
* PLUS FULL-SCREEN VIDEO AND BONUS AUDIO (Enhanced CD)
"Soon even remote places in Florida will be gone forever, replaced by golf courses and country clubs. Music takes me back to those places. It takes me back to the past where I can live, breathe and remain sane. That's probably my biggest influence. Either that or we just make up stuff that we think sounds cool." (JJ Grey from MOFRO)
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Personnel: JJ Grey (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Daryl Hance (guitar, dobro), Fabrice "Fabgrease" Quentin (bass), Nathan Shepherd (keys, sax), George Sluppick (drums, percussion, backing vocals). With special guest Robert Walter (clavinet, electric piano).
Recommended side dish: Pan fried Cracker Meal shrimp with hush puppies.
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MTV profile on MOFRO
DEBUT ALBUM FROM JACKSONVILLE'S SOUL DEFENDERS MOFROFront porch soul and live "jookhouse" funk from the Blackwater swamps of North Florida...
Nestled in the wilds of north Florida between two large lakes is the tiny community of Cross Creek. It was here in the 1940's that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings lived, and it was here that she was inspired to write her classic novels Cross Creek, The Yearling and South Moon Under. Palmetto plains with towering pines stretch on like an impenetrable jungle filled with rattlesnakes and wild hogs. Summers here are unbearably hot for the native let alone the non-native, the only form of relief being the cool black water swamps, clear water springs and the many large lakes that dot the sweltering landscape. Nearby Lake Lochloosa and Lake Orange play home to a myriad of creatures including the alligator, Sand Hill cranes, otters and large mouth bass. South and central Florida have seen many drastic changes over the last century, but little has changed here. Still a wilderness, still "behind the times" and still deeply Southern.
Singer / songwriter JJ Grey grew up 65 miles North-Northeast, in a small rural area on the outskirts of Jacksonville, developing a taste for raw grooves and living a life to inspire his soulful lyrics. JJ explains the Cross Creek connection: "My grandfather used to carry me and Daryl's daddy used to carry him down to Lake Lochloosa and Lake Orange to go fishin'. I loved it there and still do, but the last time I went down there they was building a bunch of new houses. I guess time, progress, and money have all caught up with old school Florida. I'm sure Daryl and me goin' fishin' down there helped shape our lives and music beyond our knowledge of it."
JJ talks about life closer to the big city: "We used to collect soda bottles and get 2 cents each for them at the local grocery store, then we'd take the pennies and put 'em on the railroad tracks for the trains to crush. One of the regular haunts for soda bottles was a little juke house/barbeque joint called K-D'S NITE LIMIT. That's where I got my first taste of Soul, Blues and Funk music. Everybody up there would be hangin' out playin' cards. They'd always give me some bottles, a plate of 'Q' and let me take a swig of beer or two. I remember everybody up there would be listening to the ISLEY BROTHERS or somebody like that on the stereo."
JJ's lifelong buddy Daryl Hance provides a side portion of guitar flavor and solidifies the North Florida orientation of MOFRO. "Everybody here's got an uncle or dad who can have you laughing your ass off at their funny stories about the booze running (moonshine) days," says Daryl. "Or a fishing story where someone ends up runnin' from the game wardens with a fish hook stuck in their butt. I know some folks say otherwise but Southerners genuinely love to laugh and b.s. with all comers, no tale too tall, no detail too small."
Blackwater, MOFRO's debut release on Fog City Records, maintains the label's focus on musicianship, fat tones and good times, and a real sense of place. It's that last quality that's especially strong with this record, deepened by JJ's lyrical insights into a region and culture that is slipping away with Florida's steady march to "progress".
JJ talks a bit about the changes happening in north Florida: "All these new people around here are always askin' me where I'm from. They say I don't sound like I'm from here (Florida), I sound like I'm from Georgia or Alabama. Sometimes it can get to you, but I always joke with them and say 'last time I checked, Florida was south of Georgia and Alabama'." Hitting a more serious note, JJ had this to say about recording Blackwater: "today, almost all forms of regional culture are being swallowed by the giant monochromatic blight of pop culture. When it came to the cultural distinctions in our music Fog City not only accepted it, they whole heartedly encouraged it, and helped us create a record that we fully (and finally) believe in." And we aren't alone... amazon.com included it in their list of The 10 Best R&B/Soul CDs of The Year, and there was that profile on MTV... Blackwater is now one of Fog City's best-selling releases, and a document of a major artist in the earliest stage.
Originally taking time out from his tour with fellow Fog City artists Robert Walter's 20th Congress to fill the drum seat for the Blackwater recordings (a top priority on any Fog City session!) George Sluppick has since officially joined MOFRO. Of course, he fits right in with the profile of this band: a bunch of bad mofro's that are really just the nicest people you'd ever hope to meet. Here's what George had to say about life coming full circle, from his upbringing in Memphis to working with the band: "the reason I chose to work with JJ and brother Hance on the MOFRO project is very simple.... we speak the same language (PERIOD) Of course, I could go on and tell ya'll about how JJ's lyrics spoke to me and touched my heart, and his voice brought back memories of the Gospel singers in the Black churches back home, or that the greasy-ass soulful tunes they write make me think of the days when I was a kid hanging out on Beale and listening to the street musicians who played with more honesty and conviction than ANY of the 'wanna-be's that ruled the night clubs of Memphis. But truth be known, I dig these guys and really wanted to be a part of it. I feel like we've connected with each other on a very deep level..... it's funky and groovin', like fried catfish and turnip greens... it's uplifting and spiritual, like grits and bacon... it's Southern to the core. My peoples!"
When asked directly about his influences, JJ is quick to push politics aside and point out that life itself, the good and the bad, is the fuel for his creative fire: "Neither me or Daryl would trade our past experiences for anything. We couldn't have got to this point without going through the things we've been through - both big and small. To us life is pretty much the same way: one minute you struggle and the next you're coasting. It's just a matter of how long it takes you to convince yourself that you love the struggle as much as the coasting. Any real Southerner will tell you that. We just sort of go with it. It makes us stronger, wiser and gives us a damn fine source for material."
With a cameo appearance from Robert Walter himself (adding some psychedelia to MOFRO's swamp grooves), Blackwater is a must have for fans of the Fog City thing... and an eye opener for anyone who thought there wasn't much going on in Florida... or grits aint groceries!
This is an ENHANCED CD: In addition to more than an hour of boombox-optimized barbeque soul, this CD can also be placed in the CD-ROM drive of most computers for a multimedia experience that includes a full screen video (recorded in studio during the Blackwater sessions), "hands on" interactive mixer, virtual reality studio tour and bonus audio tracks on CDROM... it's got soul, and it's superbad!
‘‘ Something universal in the music taps into the common desire to belong to a place and time, and to be exactly who you are." — National Public Radio's Morning Edition
‘‘ unspoiled tales of swampland living over a groovy rhythm section" — Billboard
‘‘ one of The 10 Best R&B/Soul CDs of the year" — amazon.com
‘‘ In myriad ways, North Florida's MOFRO are the best of the 21st century Southern rock outfits. Certainly, the central duo of John "J.J." Grey (vocals, mouth harp) and Darryl Hance (guitars), accompanied by a shifting roster of sympathetic players, is the most overtly soulful, drawing on classic R&B, post-bop organ trios, Muscle Shoals country-soul fusion and N'awlinzed party funk to augment their sonic folktales of life on the edges of the New Southern Dream. Every one of Mofro's shows is a full-tilt bacchanal where the white folks git funky and the 'bloods pour some Olde Gold out in respect, as amply represented by their strong debut Blackwater. The title track here shows the flipside of the par-tay, as Grey's raw velveteen tones limn the vanishing traces of his homeland as rural haven and simultaneously celebrate the roots eternal." — emusic.com
‘‘ This is the real thing - organic, gritty and nasty - the way they used to do it, with guitar, amp and maybe a stomp box to kick that guitar into overdrive. No technological sleight of hand, no strobe lights, no video screens or flashpots. This is serious front porch soul." — Folio Weekly
‘‘ upbeat slabs of lazy riffs steeped in juicy details of Southern cuisine and the good ol' days." — Wired Magazine
‘‘ a tasty southern soul groove" — Modern Drummer Magazine
‘‘ The neo-jam-funk genre hasn't yet produced a benchmark album? Slip on MOFRO's southern-fried Blackwater and inform your brain and bootie. The North Florida quintet's drawling swamp-gas grooves, led by the soulful pipes and harmonica of of JJ Grey, bridge the gap between Sly and Skynyrd without the slightest hint of forced gimmicry - it's as natural as bacon and grits" — Salt Lake City Weekly
‘‘ Regionalism is a long way from dead, luckily, and a band like MOFRO is emphatic proof of this. Great album." — Philip Van Vleck, The Herald Sun
‘‘ In an era when people overdub and compress the soul right out of recorded music, producer/engineer Dan Prothero has managed to capture an organic, earthy sound that perfectly suits this band's sultry swamp funk grooves. This is particularly appropriate since singer/songwriter JJ Grey seems to be a big fan of old-timey authenticity. His lyrics decry overdevelopment and the homogenization of American culture; he romanticizes the early days of his home state before "skyscrapers and superhighways [were] carved through the heart of Florida," while his band celebrates the American musical heritage of Muddy Waters, early Bootsy Collins, and other funk, blues, soul, and rock practitioners. The music is exactly what you'd want from this type of project: firmly rooted in tradition but still sounding fresh and spontaneous. Grey's vocals find the right mixture of smoothness and grit, his harmonica playing on "Blackwater" suggests an otherworldly spirit haunting the Florida swamps. Great album." — allmusic.com
‘‘ Like almost nothing you've ever heard before, MOFRO looks to be one of the best things you won't hear on the radio" — The Long Beach Union
‘‘ MOFRO's Blackwater is easily our favorite album of the year. It is too good and they are going to make some BIG noise. " — Rick Pacheco, Valley Advocate
‘‘ MOFRO is the best band you've never heard of" — CityAZ Magazine
‘‘ a sound so irresistible that even the most music-savvy cannot help but show respect" — The Stanford Daily
‘‘ definitely one of the funkiest offerings of last year" — San Jose Mercury News
‘‘ 9 out of 10 -- an ear dose of earthy funk, blues, R&B, and rock with absolutely no hint of any modern day gimmicks or hair highlights. Some might say Florida-based pop music is still in the hands of Jacksonville's Pimp Bizkit or Orlando's Backside Boys -- others might contend that backwoods Florida ethos in pop music might have gone down in flames with Stevie Van Zandt. This in fact, may be true (because commercial payola will always reign supreme), but indeed, one can revel in this overall strong offering of true lyricism and raw music talent. Amen brothas!" — soulstrut.com
‘‘ Back at the [George's Music Springing The Blues] festival, CD Connection's tent offered the performers' latest recordings. As of Saturday, the biggest seller so far wasn't any of the international talent -- it was the local scene's own MOFRO." — Florida Times-Union
‘‘ What contemporary recording seems to lack is a balance between good grooves and good songs. MOFRO has struck that balance like a Tiger Woods tee shot with a debut album sporting grooves to make you move, AND words to move you to tears. These are songs that improve with every listen, and deserve both attention from hardcore blues/soul/rock fans, and mainstream radio stations. By the end of the album, you can see, hear, and smell the deep south back country that they love so much. It's country that produced some of this nations' rock and soul, including the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Widespread Panic. If MOFRO can keep producing music with the same integrity, grit, and artistry displayed on their first release, we may have to add a new name to that pantheon. " — DJ Rob Kowal, Jambase.com
‘‘ dynamic and irresistible" — Face Magazine
‘‘ MOFRO boasts more than catchy tunes and radio-friendly edits. The band offers a little bit of soul, a little bit of funk, and a heapin' helping of just about anything else one could ask for." — The Daily Campus
" dilemmas, dilemmas...Had a barbeque at which I was going to be running the music and I forgot all about it.....MOFRO to the rescue. Blackwater came in the mail saturday so I popped that in and kept it on repeat for most of the evening. People were close to dancing naked--in my opinion, a litmus for great music. In all seriousness, it's a great album. Fog City's consistency in putting out the highest quality recordings --- and I use that term in an all encompassing way to include talent, sound, the enhanced CD extras, etc. etc. etc. ---- is amazing and probably unmatchable. Buy this cd if you haven't already." — fan mail from Garrett
" Just got Blackwater today, and I'm tellin' ya, I'll be shocked if this album leaves my CD player within the next 6 months. SO great. Greasy, soulful, backporch aural lovin'." — fan mail from Gina in L.A.
" I have not been this excited about a sound in years. I think i'm going to bring my speakers outside tonight. Thanks guys !!" — fan mail from Eddie in Jacksonville, FL
" The sound is so fresh and it really captures what being southern is all about. Thanks for proving that a band can sound different and still be great. " — fan mail from Meg and Allen in Laurinburg NC
" I have been out of the country but the CDs were present when I arrived home... as expected, they are exceptional... great musicians, exceptional tunes and primo production!! you really have a great knack for finding and shepherding unique creators of quality handcrafted uncompromising music... for this I salute you! In the age of sound alike bands with little talent FC provides a ray of hope for the future of music... great job..." — fan mail from Zachary in St Louis, MO
" After a few more listens I have to say MOFRO have cut an awesome album! The level of song writing is fantastic and the artistry is first rate. JJ's voice is a wickedly soulful instrument opening up a part of the world unknown yet strangely familiar. I was mesmerized by the skill of all the contributors. You are a lucky man to see these bands in their formative stage and be a part of making such authentic, true music. Good luck on the launch of this gem. I anticipate hearing more from this band - the skill level of their individual musicianship is simply beyond question. I was wrong yesterday, I now have at least five favourite songs from MOFRO..." — fan mail from Neil in London, Ontario, Canado
" Anyone that hasn't should get this @#$%!& cd. Especially my southern bretheren. I don't know what to say bout MOFRO cept i'm listenin now and this is the $%!+ far as i'm concerned. I'd LOVE to see this live. Anyone here who respects what i say bout bands should absolutely check MOFRO out, if ya don't respect what i say then get it anyway and think 'that nutjob was right this time." — Bart, a fan posting to the Galactic listserv
"I have seen the light....and it screamed MOFRO!! Had the extreme pleasure of finally being schooled by MOFRO last night. I checked out their set with Robert Randolph in Pittsburgh and it was a friggin barn-burner! I don't care what you have to do, but if they are even remotely close to where you live you MUST go see them. This is one of those gigs where you'll kick your own ass if you miss. I'm tellin' ya, they're gonna blow up and it'll be a rare treat to see a show this small in the future....get it while the gettin's good!!" — fan mail from shaun
"MOFRO is the sho bro! Some serious swamp soul, some bayou blues, some marsh madness. Made me wanna go and wrestle a croc or skin a coon. Instead I ordered a spritzer with a twist of lime and had the valet bring my car around!!!! LIke hell!! Hey these cats are the s#!t, if they come to yo town get yerself to steppin and check em out!!!" — fan mail from Huzie
" Far out! Heard ya'll first on NPR on way to teach middle school chillins' and it made it a SUPURB Friday! I just sat in the parkin lot, not smokin crack, just groovin to the purest soul sound I've heard in years. Like a big mutha magnet drawin up what belongs from the rubble, I felt the satisfaction of brotherly connection and everything in the world was SMOOTH for that few minutes. After checkin out 3 music stores, I finally found it and took it back to Mississippi for Christmas and gave everyone a taste of the MOFRO Flava! What ya'll are doin is the reason I was tryin to establish music festivals to revitalize the SOUL sound of my home state before departing with my new family last year. Music is the messenger as its root connection within the soul can give life and focus where all hope had become an extinguished ember, almost lost. We can all improve, but for now ya'll are the improvement, reaching back for what is real to keep us from losing HOME." — fan mail from Greenville, SC