JJ Grey's goal on his new album, "This River," was to get a little more Mofro into the mix.
Oh, the Florida singer and songwriter has always given his band a pretty wide berth on his previous releases. But this time he made sure that its 10 songs were recorded by the group playing live together, rather than in a piecemeal fashion.
"As often as I could I would cram everyone in the studio all at once so we could play as live as possible," says Grey, 46. "This is the longest I've had a group of guys together; Todd Smallie, the bass player, has been with us about two years, going on three, and the horns have been with me since 2007.
"We've done a lot of shows, and we're really excited about paying with each other and I think it definitely shows up on the record. And we at least practiced this stuff at rehearsals for awhile before we hit the studio, which we've never done before, and that made a difference, too."
"This River," whose title makes reference to the St. John's River in Grey's native Jacksonville, is also set apart from Grey's other work by a loose, thematic thread that runs through the album. But that's something he claims did not happen by design.
"After it was all done I listened to the songs and felt like there's a central character on the record going through all these different things," Grey explains. "I never intended for that to happen. I'm not really clever enough to write a concept record. But it's definitely there.
I think a lot of it came from sitting right beside the river. The St. John's River is huge, really big -- two or three miles across in this particular park when I was sitting around, chillin' and thinking about life, looking at that river and thinking how big and how peaceful and quiet it was. To me that was the way out of the craziness of this world and some of the other songs, so it seemed like 'This River' was the right title for this group of songs."
JJ Grey & Mofro, Eric Krasno, Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds perform Wednesday, April 17, at Saint Andrews Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit. Doors pen at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. Call 313-961-8961 or visit www.saintandrewsdetroit.com.
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