Everything came together for JJ Grey and Mofro on the swampy, soulful Georgia Warhorse

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When Alligator Records signed JJ Grey and Mofro and reissued his 2001 debut Blackwater, something seemed to click. Grey quickly followed that up with highlights like 2008’s Orange Blossoms and this sweet blend of Memphis soul and north Florida swamp rock.

Georgia Warhorse, released on August 24, 2010, found JJ Grey playing nearly all the instruments on Mofro, even while composing and singing. He’s simply everything you could want from a soul specialist: a genuinely soulful and pliable singer, putting down homegrown grooves that pull you to the dance floor, all amid a crunchy, dirty sound that pulls the best strains from 1960s and ’70s R&B and rock. None of it is fluff.

With his Florida swamp background ever present, this is soul as interpreted through the filter of Southern rock, and it’s easy to spot the connection between his music with the Black Crowes, Derek Trucks (who provided slide guitar on “Lullaby”) and another underrated Jacksonville-based group by the name of Swamp Cabbage. As before, the production on JJ Grey and Mofro’s Georgia Warhorse is analog-warm and doesn’t give a damn about what the latest trends are.

It does care a lot about rocking your soul. JJ Grey still knows how to get funky like no one else from the Florida swamps can, and keeps the crown with organic boogie numbers like “Diyo Dayo” and “Slow, Hot and Sweaty,” then hits you up with a shuffling, slippery rocker like “All” and “The Hottest Spot In Hell.”

Even the slow tunes don’t lose any bit of feel and depth, as the acoustic guitar ballad “King Hummingbird” can attest. JJ Grey doesn’t use horns as much as you think he might, but when he does, it’s pure magic. Of course, having the great reggae singer Toots Hibbert share lead vocals sure didn’t hurt for “The Sweetest Thing,” either.

JJ Grey and Mofro started out as a very good band; Georgia Warhorse catapulted them — or should I say, JJ Grey — into the great category.

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