‘Brighter Days’ indeed; JJ Grey and Mofro returning to Tahoe, set to release live DVD/CD
JJ Grey’s live performance recorded for a DVD was so good a CD was also produced.
“Brighter Days,” a two-hour DVD and a 78-minute CD recorded in January at Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse, will be released Sept. 13.
JJ Grey and Mofro perform at 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, in the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room. Tim Reynolds, who often plays in a duo with Dave Matthews, opens with a solo performance.
The DVD breaks up songs with documentary footage of Grey, a soul singer-songwriter from Florida’s backwoods and swamps. He’s an humanistic storyteller with a social and environmental consciousness.
“Everybody was so happy with the show and with the quality of the music as well as the visuals they began talking about a CD as well,” said Alligator Records President Bruce Iglauer. “So the CD originally was the tail and the DVD was the dog and it kind of reversed as things went along.”
The bonus for Iglauer is his label’s best-selling artist will have another CD on the market. Grey’s songwriting has steadily matured with each of his Alligator albums, “Country Ghetto” in 2007, “Orange Blossoms” in 2008 and “Georgia Warhorse” in 2010. His first two records were more raucous and raw – but just as passionate – “Blackwater” in 2001 and “Lochloosa” in 2004 have been re-released on Alligator.
While the studio records are exemplary, using just one performance for the new record speaks volumes for his live show.
“I love JJ in the studio, but the level of passion and intensity on both the DVD and the CD is just terrific and is everything I love about JJ,” Iglauer said. “This is really an all-killer, no-filler combination here. I really couldn’t be happier.”
Grey was unavailable to comment for this article.
JJ Grey and Mofro built a Tahoe following with three consecutive annual performances at the Crystal Bay Casino, but his last appearance here was in 2009. Since that time Grey’s Mofro career-long musical partner, keyboardist Daryl Hance, has left to pursue a solo career.
Grey’s performance style has also changed. He used to play onstage with both guitar and keyboard. Now he is more focused on singing. Guitarist Andrew Trube and keyboardist Anthony Farrell from a group called the Greyhounds joined Mofro in March 2009.
“He’s gone back to what he was at first, which is being a vocalist,” Iglauer said. “He tells me he sings better when he’s not playing. There is less JJ guitar on this record, there is no JJ keyboard; fair amount of harmonica. I think he’s become a really strong guitarist. A very passionate, hard-edged guitarist and I love his playing, but the whole band is just fine, fine musicians, and you can feel the love between them.”
By appearing on what is first and foremost a blues label has exposed Grey to a larger audience.
“JJ has never presented himself as a bluesman nor did ever think of him as a bluesmen,” Iglauer said. “I hear blues influences but absolutely I hear more soul influence than blues influence. He mentions Otis Redding and Toots Hibbard as influences, who recorded with him, as sell as Tony Joe White.”