JJ Grey is not your classic bluesman, but he’s a genuine southern soul and roots talent who supplies guitars, keyboards, and amazing vocals to a set of songs that celebrate southern people and southern living.
References here include Stax Records from the ’60s and ’70s, but Grey and his band have their own sound. Rock and fuzzed out guitar appear on “War,” which has a brilliant lyric about personal battles. The title cut is a funky rocker with slightly reverbed twangy guitar that mixes wonderfully with Grey’s harmonica. The song is an anthem for the people he grew up with and contains one of the biggest “screw yous” to Hollywood types since the Drive-By Truckers. “Tragic” is, like several tunes here, horn-driven to the point where Grey’s guitar and the horns are joined at the hip. “Turpentine” is a southern soul funk tune with soaring guitars and a scary lyric. “Mississippi” is elastic funk driven by Grey’s slinky guitar playing. The lyric is a celebration of a state that sometimes gets a lot of static.
While the music here is a beautiful amalgamation of styles Grey’s vocals are the true wonder. He is gruff or quiet, but always soulful, with an earthy, funky voice that goes perfectly with the lyrics.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jun ’07 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.