music / Columns

Jam Central Station: JJ Grey & Mofro

December 16, 2017 | Posted by Jeff Modzelewski



Soul, blues, and R&B have been a long-standing part of the festival scene. From Woodstock forward, festival fans have been happy to take a break from trippy jams and half-hour solos to relax and chill out to some soul and funk. A variety of bands have fit the bill for that role over the years. For the past decade, one of the premier bands that has entertained jam fans with their unique blend of soul and Southern blues has been JJ Grey & Mofro.

Southern soul rocker JJ Grey is the unequivocal leader of this band. Grey came out of northern Florida, in an area that is much more traditionally “southern” than other parts of the state. His upbringing and close ties to the area and the culture has been an influence on Grey throughout his career. He initially formed the band (originally labeled simply Mofro) in the mid-90’s with guitarist Darryl Hance. They quickly gained popularity in the region and had a potential deal to record an album in England. When that fell through, the duo brought together a few other musicians in England to work to land another deal. Their work overseas actually caught the attention of American producer Dan Prothero out of San Francisco, and he brought the band back to the U.S. in 2001 to record their debut album, Blackwater.

Touring soon became a way of life for Mofro, and their word-of-mouth fanbase helped them gain spots on festivals such as Austin City Limits and Bonnaroo. Through three years of touring, they were able to get their name out to fans and artists of many different styles. In 2004 they released Lochloosa, again on the independent Fog City records. The band also continued to tweak their lineup, with Grey and Hance forming a steady backbone as they added other pieces.

In 2006, the band moved to Alligator Records, a blues label that had served as a home for Buddy Guy and Rufus Thomas at one point. With their move over to Alligator, their album output increased dramatically, starting with 2007’s Country Ghetto. They also began putting together the pieces of the current lineup at this time as well, adding horn players Dennis Marion and Art Edmaiston. 2008 saw another new album, the critically acclaimed Orange Blossoms, as well as the addition of drummer AC Cole.

By 2009, JJ Grey & Mofro had become a musical force in the soul, funk, and R&B jam scene. They were releasing an album nearly every year, and were constantly a midcard draw at festivals. By playing over 150 shows a year, not just in the U.S. but around the world, they developed a solid base of fans as well as their own musical chemistry. Grey continued to be the primary songwriter and frontman, but the rest of the band came together through this time as well. They added Anthony Farrell and Andrew Trube at this time, and then put the final piece of the band in place in 2010 with Todd Smalliee on bass. They also released another pair of albums, Georgia Warhorse and Brighter Days.

2013 saw the release of This River, a more upbeat album from previous releases. After spending time on the road with artists like The Tedeschi Trucks Band, Grey & Mofro incorporated a new sense of soul fusion into their work, and that continued to be incorporated and broadened, all with an eye towards keeping things upbeat and accessible. 2015’s Ol’ Glory continued that theme, and the band’s live shows continued to be a diverse and exciting experience.

JJ Grey & Mofro have made a name for themselves through the typical formula of hard work, touring, and producing great original music. Their blend of funk, soul, and R&B is easy to dance to and fun at a festival. On their albums, the band goes to great lengths to get a loose feel while still being very tight and on cue. Soul and funk will continue to be a big part of the festival music scene, and bands like JJ Grey & Mofro are more than able to continue to carry the torch.



DelFest announces initial lineup
DelFest announced their initial lineup this week, and, pardon me for saying “Holy Sh*t!” This is an excellent lineup for the always excellent festival. The Del McCoury Band and The Travelin’ McCoury’s are of course at the top of the bill, joined by The Bluegrass Congress (featuring The Del McCoury Band, David Grisman, Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush, Béla Fleck, Jerry Douglas, Bryan Sutton, and Stuart Duncan), Old Crow Medicine Show, David Grisman, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Jerry Douglas Band, The Wood Brothers, Elephant Revival, Fruition, Rising Appalachia, Billy Strings, and many other excellent acts.

Charm City Bluegrass Festival announces lineup
The Charm City Bluegrass Festival will be held in Baltimore on April 27-28. The city festival will feature The Devil Makes Three, The Steeldrivers, The Travelin’ McCoury’s, Jeff Austin Band, Billy Strings, Larry Keel Experience, and many others.

Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds in Mexico
January 12-14
Riviera Maya, MX
3 nights of Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds as well as Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Brandi Carlisle, and Joseph

Gov’t Mule’s Island Exodus
January 13-17
Jewel Paradise Cove
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
Gov’t Mule, Warren Haynes, JJ Grey & Mofro

Jam in the Sand
January 18-22
Jewel Paradise Cove
Ruanaway Bay, Jamaica
Dark Star Orchestra, Hot Tuna, Rumpke Mountain Boys

Jam Cruise
January 17-22
Medeski, Martin, Scofield & Wood, Galactic, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Maceo Parker, Lotus, Lettuce, Gramatik, Keller Williams, The New Mastersounds, Dumpstaphunk, Turkuaz, The Main Squeeze

Gem & Jam
January 25-28
Tuscon, AZ
STS9, Greensky Bluegrass, Lettuce, Breaking Biscuits, Emancipator, Railroad Earth

Panic En La Playa
January 26-30
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Widespread Panic (4 shows), Playa Allstars, The Cleaners, Big Something, Dave Shaw, Marcus King, Cris Jacobs

Winter WonderGrass
February 21-23
Steamboat Springs, CO
Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, Leftover Salmon, Elephant Revival, Horseshoes & Handgrenades, Travelin’ McCoury’s, Fruition, Billy Strings

Winter Wondergrass Tahoe
April 6-8
Squaw Valley, CA
The Devil Makes Three, Railroad Earth, The Infamous Stringdusters, Elephant Revival, The California Honeydrops, Steep Canyon Rangers, Fruition, The Lil’ Smokies

Wannee Festival
April 19-21
Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
Live Oaks, FL
Widespread Panic, Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, Dark Star Orchestra, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, North Mississippi Allstars, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe

Sweetwater 420 Festival
April 20-22
Centennial Park
Atlanta, GA
Umphrey’s McGee, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Sturgill Simpson, Vulfpeck, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Papadosio, The Record Company, Spafford, Southern Avenue

April 26-29
Wilkes Community College
Wilkesboro, NC
Kris Kristofferson, Jamey Johnson, Sam Bush, The Devil Makes Three, Donna the Buffalo, The Way Down Wanderers, Wesley Bright & The Honeytones

Charm City Bluegrass Festival
April 27-28
Druid Hill Park
Baltimore, MD
The Devil Makes Three, The Travelin’ McCoury’s, The Steeldrivers, Jeff Austin Band, Billy Strings, Larry Keel Experience

May 17-19
Fort Royale Farm
Bedford, PA
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong

May 24-27
Cumberland, MD
The Del McCoury Band, The Travelin’ McCoury’s, The Bluegrass Congress, Old Crow Medicine Show, David Grisman, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, The Jerry Douglas Band, The Wood Brothers, Elephant Revival, Fruition, Billy Strings

Summer Camp
May 25-27
Three Sisters Park
Chillicothe, IL
moe., Umphrey’s McGee

Dark Star Jubilee
May 25-27
Legend Valley
Thornville, OH
Dark Star Orchestra, Los Lobos, Infamous Stringdusters, Hot Tuna, The Nth Power, Rumpke Mountain Boys

June 7-10
Manchester, TN

Blue Ox Music Festival
June 14-16
Eau Claire, WI
Greensky Bluegrass, The Devil Makes Three, Sam Bush, Del McCoury Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, Margo Price, Billy Strings

Electric Forest Weekend 1
June 21-24
Double JJ Ranch & Resort
Rothbury, MI
The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Chromeo, Xavier Rudd, Andy Frasco & The UN, Aqueous, Big Something, Corey Henry & The Funk Apostles, Everyone Orchestra, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Manic Focus, Shook Twins, The Main Squeeze, The Werks, The Nth Power, Toubab Krewe, Turkuaz

Electric Forest Weekend 2
June 28-July 1
Double JJ Ranch & Resort
Rothbury, MI
The String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Chromeo, Xavier Rudd, Aqueous, Big Something, Corey Henry & The Funk Apostles, Everyone Orchestra, Fruition, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Manic Focus, Shook Twins, The Main Squeeze, The Werks, The Nth Power, Toubab Krewe, Turkuaz

July 25-29
Floyd, VA
Foster the People, The Infamous Stringdusters, Hiss Golden Messenger


Thanks again for stopping by. I’ll be back next week with more jam. Until then, check me out on Facebook and Twitter for up to the minute concert announcements. Until next week, Jam On!