American blues-rock band JJ Grey & Mofro bring sublime summer goodness with its ninth studio album Ol’ Glory. Despite multiple lineup changes for the act founded in Jacksonville, Florida over the past two decades or so, the band’s cohesion is palpable in its mostly buoyant, energised arrangements.
Opener Everything Is A Song fuses Born To Era-Bruce Springsteen (think the euphoric booming drums on Thunder Road) together with the feel-good, brass-driven 1970s soul of Al Green (think Let’s Stay Together). Frontman Grey’s routine of surfing in the morning and recording in the afternoon surely must have helped in contributing to those chilled out vibes. The track is fun and uncomplicated, suited for a raucous late night with some good ol’ southern-style chicken and beer. A Night To Remember is another effort perfect for a boozy, unforgettable night that no one can remember, with its rolling bass, sensual vocal grunts, slinky guitar licks and bluesy shuffle.
Every Minute begins optimistically with its message of living each moment to the fullest, breaking through like rays of the morning sun with its surf-inspired slide guitar. However, its bridge changes the mood towards the sinister, proving to be unexpected, raw and hard-hitting. The sense of anger and defiance continues on Brave Lil’ Fighter, seemingly about the struggle to survive. Don’t be fooled by a slight disco shuffle, guitar riffs micking a funky clavinet and Dennis Marion‘s trumpet solo appropriate for a campy, climatic shootout scene in a epic Western. This almost six-minute epic is bound to psych listeners up in the fight for life.
Sweaty, teasing moments occur on the menacing Turn Loose, the uplifting, sweaty Home In The Sky and the loud, filthy Hold On Tight (which particularly shows off Grey’s impressive throat rasp and blistering guitar by Andrew Trube).The gentler, country-tinged acoustic ballad Tic Tac Toe may be a bit listless, but the title track is invigorating, smooth funk that has Grey getting DOWN.
There are softer, more religious moments such as the sunny The Island (which evokes a church in the middle of some god-forsaken American desert with its heartfelt vocals and gospel-like chords) and Light A Candle (whose message of impermanence depicted in the metaphor of candles should resonate). Tender ballad The Hurricane marks a poignant close to the album as the turbulent journey of life throughout the album (complete with references to God opening his mouth and seeking shelter from the storm) comes full circle to its soothing, inevitable end.
JJ Grey & Mofro’s latest album proves to be a passionate, retro renaissance that adds rockier and bluesy twists to 1960s and 1970s soul.