Florida warhorse to play R&B

Southern swamp roots will be growing in the Shuswap when artist JJ Grey and his band Mofro give two performances at the 19th annual Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival next weekend.

Southern swamp roots will be growing in the Shuswap when artist JJ Grey and his band Mofro give two performances at the 19th annual Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival next weekend.

Grey and his band will perform songs from their latest release, Georgia Warhorse, which features 11 original compositions, and one co-write, that come right out of the Southern musical tradition.

An avid outdoorsman, Grey is a dedicated fisherman and surfer and holds an honorary position on the board of the Snook Foundation, dedicated to the protection of coastal fish and fish habitat. He has written passionately and articulately about his love for the untrammeled environment of his north Florida home.

His latest album is named after the resilient southern lubber grasshopper.

“(They are) yellow and black, and tough like an old-school Tonka toy,” said Grey. “They seem so at ease with the world. Nothing seems to rile them. They’re in no hurry, but they have a kind of resilience because they just keep coming back, and I’ve always felt there was a lesson in there for me to learn.”

Joining him for a track on the album is Grey’s long-time musical hero and reggae icon Toots Hibbert, who sings on the The Sweetest Thing.

“Toots is the greatest soul singer I’ve ever heard and one of my biggest influences,” said Grey.

Georgia Warhorse also provided the opportunity for Grey to work with another friend and hero, fellow Jacksonvillian guitarist Derek Trucks. In true neighborly fashion, Trucks stopped by Grey’s house to record slide guitar for the song Lullaby.

Singing with a passion and fervor directly influenced by the classic soul heroes, Grey has written and recorded five albums of original songs steeped in the rhythm and blues, rock and country soul of his native backwoods home outside Jacksonville.

He made his debut with the CD Blackwater, followed in 2004 by Lochloosa, which were met with critical acclaim, including “one of the 10 best releases of the year” in Rolling Stone Magazine for Lochloosa.

Both albums (reissued in 2007) were released under the name Mofro, which Grey chose to describe his music and sound while still working his day job at a lumberyard. Now the name of his band, Grey has teamed up with an ever-changing group of world-class players.

Grey reached an even larger audience, doubling both his album sales and his concert attendance, with his 2007 release, Country Ghetto, while 2008’s Orange Blossoms built on that momentum with even more fans, radio stations and critics coming on board. A 2009 best-of vinyl LP, The Choice Cuts, kept the momentum going.

With the release of Georgia Warhorse and a relentless world tour to follow, Grey is set for a breakout year. Commenting on his musical future, he says, “Life just makes itself up right in front of me and I just roll with it. All I know is to have the family I have, see the places I’ve been, meet the people I’ve met and to get to play music with some of the most talented folks around has got to make me the luckiest man alive.”

JJ Grey and Mofro play the TD Canada Trust Main Stage Saturday, Aug. 20 at 8:45 p.m. and the Blues Stage Sunday, Aug. 21 at 3:50 p.m.

Other artists playing the Roots and Blues Festival Aug. 19 to 21 at the Salmon Arm Fairgrounds include Jonny Lang, Taj Mahal, Five Alarm Funk, Arkells, Ben Waters Trio, Broken Social Scene and many more.

Weekend and day advance tickets are on sale until midnight tonight at www.rootsandblues.ca or call 250-833-4096. Full-price passes are available at the gate.