June 2013 brings the release of JJ Grey & Mofro’s sixth studio album, This River. Named for the St. John’s River — a centering point for his childhood near Jacksonville, Florida — This River flows from freewheeling celebrations (Florabama) to dark inner journeys (Somebody Else), from late night, beer-soaked testimonials (Your Lady, She’s Shady) to heartfelt ballads of the almost-forgotten (The Ballad Of Larry Webb), and ends with the title track and a singularly devastating vocal performance. With Dan Prothero at the helm as producer, JJ and the band once again returned to Retrophonics Studio in nearby St. Augustine, Florida and muscled out some of JJ’s strongest material to date.
“We set up much like we do for our shows, and cut the tracks as close to live as possible. There’s something about everybody getting into one room and playing together. It brings some spark that can sometimes get lost in the shuffle of too much overdubbing.”
JJ’s band, Mofro, has been a decade in the making. Over that time, great players have come and gone, but according to JJ, the present incarnation — with Art Edmaiston on saxophone, Dennis Marion on trumpet, Anthony Farrell on organ and piano, Todd Smallie on bass, Anthony Cole on drums and Andrew Trube on guitar — is the “crème de la crème.”
“These musicians I get to play with make it look easy. I’ve learned so much from them about music and about life in general. It ain’t always easy to keep a core together when you do so many shows a year, year after year, but I truly hope to keep these guys together as long as possible.”
Many of Grey’s songs reflect his love for the North Florida wilderness in which he grew up. He’s watched his native home be decimated by egregious development, and this has often figured heavily into his lyrics. He now works with groups such as The Snook & Gamefish Foundation and the St. John’s Riverkeepers, but still doesn’t consider himself an environmentalist.
“I guess I’ve never really believed that there is an environment that’s separate from me. I reckon that my connection to the environment, which I could call my home, is part of the connection to myself. I believe that whatever I do to my home and everything in it, I in turn do to myself.”
From his early days playing cover music behind chicken wire at a Westside (Jacksonville) juke joint to playing sold-out shows and some of the largest music festivals in the world, it’s been a long road. But JJ has no illusions about where he’s headed or where he’s been. When prompted with questions about his past accomplishments or future plans, JJ lays down a little backwoods wisdom: “I’m just a salmon swimming upstream. Going back home, I reckon. I don’t know why and I quit caring why a long time ago. I guess there is no ‘why’ that my mind could understand anyway. All I do know is that I’ve enjoyed and I’m still enjoying every second of just being here and doing whatever it is I’m doing.”
Upcoming Tour Dates
No European shows booked at the moment.