JJ Grey, the frontman for the band MOFRO, isn't an environmentalist, per say. He just writes music and lyrics about what he feels and sees.
If he happens to see the development-induced destruction of the swamplands in his home state of Florida, he's going to write about it. If it's his granny's tasty ham hocks and white-acre peas, he'll pen a song about that, too.
But no matter what he writes, you know it's going to be from the heart.
The same can be said for when Grey and MOFRO play on stage. They returned to the District last week after a 3 1/2-year absence, and while the joint wasn't jumpin' and jivin' the entire time, there was more than enough black water roll to keep things interesting.
First of all, let's get one thing straight. Grey has a set of pipes WASA would be proud of. The kid can turn heads with his soulful voice, and MOFRO's southern jam-style lets him use that voice to its full extent.
The opening song allowed Grey to go all out -- giving the audience a strong sampling of what they'd be in for the rest of the night. Even if he did say he partied a little too hard the night before in Richmond, Grey didn't let that get in the way. He's got a voice that makes you stop whatever you're doing and look not once, but twice, just to make sure you're hearing correct.
And you still might not believe it after seeing and hearing it in person.
Yeah, he's that good.
Grey was backed by his usual accompaniment of guitar player, drummer and keyboardist, but for the latest MOFRO album, Country Ghetto, the band added a horns section. The crowd was given a lesson in saxophone on the second song -- a serious solo, as a matter of fact. And it was another sign of things to come.
The horns blew the rest of the night. And I'm not so sure that was a good thing. The songs often seemed to soften just a bit in order to get the horns involved. The normal foot-stompin' MOFRO songs felt a tad slower. While the cause couldn't be pinpointed, there was strong evidence coming from the back of the stage -- those two guys with the horns dancing in step.
Yeah, that wasn't exactly kosher. I know that the horn section doesn't have much to do when it's not playing, but come on, do you have to dance in sync? Fellas, if you were dancin' like that around some swamp crackas two miles from Grannies Bay, you'd be in for a world fulla hurt.
Anyway, back to the show. Things eventually picked up. After a stunning rendition of "Florida," the band kicked it in to high gear and finally cranked out some booty-shakin' numbers to remember.
And that's what it's all about, really -- music that makes you think, and music that makes you shake. And as long as Grey is at the helm, MOFRO will continue to please on both accounts.