JJ Grey continues a long line of singer/songwriters who grew up in the South and soaked up everything that makes music from that region so unique. On his second effort for Alligator, Grey proves adept at soul, R&B, rock, country, and gospel, interchanging parts of each.
The title cut is a punchy soul tune with a guitar figure that revolves around the whole song. The skilled songwriter, singer, and guitarist offers proof he knows his way around a studio, too, with cuts like “The Devil You Know” and its too-hot-in-the-right-way vocal. A bit of distortion sounds perfect and sums up a lot of parts on the album, sonically and otherwise. “On Fire” is funk a la Sly Stone, with big bass and slinky guitar. Grey’s vocal leads into a sparse, soulful guitar solo full of sweet bends. “Ybor City” has a funky guitar figure that sets up the song the way John Lee Hooker’s guitar figures used to set up his songs before it morphs into jazz with nice stop-time punches. Another nice part of this record is the addition of a string section on several of the songs. Put with the slow, bluesy funk and Grey’s falsetto vocal, the strings are like the topping on a good bowl of ice cream.
Grey’s singing has always been soulful and full of life. Here, his writing and playing are growing in the same way.
This article originally appeared in VG’s Dec. ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.