August 3, 2008
I’ve been on a JJ Grey & Mofro kick for a fairly long time but this last week was exceptionally filled with their music. This is partly due to the fact that I purchased a couple tickets to their upcoming show at The Independent on September 13th and also because I picked up their second album, Lochloosa.
JJ Grey is based out of Jacksonville, Florida and released their first album, Blackwater, in 2001. Then in 2004 they released Lochloosa and in 2007 they treated us with Country Ghetto. Their sound is somewhat unique to my collection and because of that it took me a little while to really get into. Thankfully the lyrics were strong enough to keep me engaged and eventually engrossed in the music.
In fact, it’s not just the lyrics, it’s the passion that they convey. In my opinion, Grey isn’t just making music for fun and money, he’s got something to say. Many tracks are full of advice or express a love for the environment while others border on political or deal with relationships. I think it takes a good amount of courage to be this honest and passionate with anyone willing to listen, especially when most of the population won’t see eye to eye with you on some things.
Blackwater – This album is a mix of both serious and simply fun songs. This mix makes it a pretty easy album to just sit back and relax to but not bore you.
- Some people think they’re free
if they get to do just what they want to do
and do nothing, nothing else
- This song is all about what it means to truly live free (as in freedom) and that living free doesn’t have anything to do with wealth or possessions.
- Now skyscrapers and superhighways
are carved through the heart of Florida
Building sub-divisions while the swamps are drained
makin’ room for people and amusement parks
- I visited Orlando last year for a conference and really didn’t enjoy the city. It seemed to be a culmination of all the craziness that is the United Sates, so this song resonates with me fairly strongly.
- Brighter Days
- Boy you about to hit the bottom
I’ll be alone
I feel I’m movin’ where to a land you never saw
- Thankfully I can’t relate to every aspect of this song, but at the same time it always reminds me of my move from Iowa to California. The song touches nicely on how difficult it can be to leave what’s comfortable knowing that hard times are bound to follow.
Lochloosa - This album has a lot of the same feelings and themes as Blackwater but with more music and less filler. The lyrics on this album are as strong as ever and musically I feel like it is more expansive than Blackwater.
- All we need is one more damn developer
Tearing her heart out
All we need is one more Mickey Mouse
Another golf course another country club
Another gated community
- This track is quite similar in its message as Florida off of Blackwater. While some might see this as a lack of creativity, I see it as continued exploration of something that is clearly important to Grey.
- The Wrong Side
- Time ain’t standing still
And there ain’t no way to get it back
All this looking over my shoulder
A bad habit
- I like this track simply because Grey appears to be reflecting on how he’s spent his life and is trying to deal with some regrets. We all have regrets and sometimes it’s hard not to fixate on them but the song reminds us that it’s a bad habit, always a good thing to keep in mind.
- The Long Way Home
- No effort, no gain
No effort, stay the same
No don’t you ever try to live a lie
- This song also has some parallels to Brighter Days from Blackwater which is probably why I latched onto it quickly. But after hearing it a few times I realized that the song is more about asking yourself what type of person you are.
Country Ghetto – This is their latest album and in my opinion it is the most varied album both musically and lyrically out of the three. Topics vary from political to personal relationships while keeping an undertone of love for nature and the simple life.
- Ain’t but one thing that’s for sure
Everybody want some more
No one gonna do what’s “right”
All we’ll do is fight
- This track opens up the album with a bang. A bit more up tempo and charged than anything on the previous two albums. It almost a similar feel to How Come by Ray LaMontagne but with more of an electric flavor.
- Country Ghetto
- Little boy you ain’t never take a dime from the man
Starve to death before you live by a government handout
They call us poverty
Life in a country ghetto
- Musically this song is surprisingly appealing to me and lyrically it’s quite interesting. It seems to confront the stereotypes that typically surround people living in the rural south and it does so with pride.
- By My Side
- Hear these fools tell you who you are
but you don’t hear a doggone thing
And maybe that’s why, why I love you
- This is one of the examples where Grey gets more into personal relationships. While there’s no shortage of music about love, this song isn’t sappy about it which is refreshing and uplifting.